The Titans offense is expected to carry the load this season in the eyes of many prognosticators. And the anchor of that attack once again should be the running game.
Sure, the Titans have a blossoming quarterback in Marcus Mariota and have upgraded the wide receiver corps to give him more weapons in year three. But the bread and butter of Mike Mularkey’s system is still based around a strong running game, something the Titans featured a year ago with DeMarco Murray. Murray led the AFC with 1,287 yards in a nice bounce back season after a dismal 2016 with the Eagles.
Behind Murray, the Titans don’t miss a beat with 2015 Heisman winner Derrick Henry, who had 490 yards of his own in limited touches. Beyond that, the Titans have fullback Jalston Fowler, who does what you want a traditional fullback to do – block and catch the occasional swing pass.
The wild-card in this is rookie Khalfani Muhammad, a seventh-round pick who could stick as a change of pace back. His small jitterbug style is reminiscent of players like Jacquizz Rodgers and Darren Sproles. But even if he make the roster, where will his touches come from with Murray and Henry firmly ahead of him.
RBs currently on the roster: 7 _ DeMarco Murray (7th year, Oklahoma); Derrick Henry (2nd year Alabama); Jalston Fowler, FB (3rd year, Alabama); David Fluellen (1st year, Toledo); Khalfani Muhammad (Rookie, California); Joe Bacci, FB (Rookie, Central Michigan); Akeem Judd (Rookie, Ole Miss).
RBs projected on the 53-man roster: 4, plus 1 on the practice squad.
Best storylines of camp/preseason: How many carries will Henry get and can Muhammad find a role on the 53-man roster.
Analysis: Murray was the workhorse back for the Titans last season, and figures to get the lion’s share of the carries again in 2017, as long as he stays healthy and productive. Murray showed all-around skills, not only rushing for 1,287 yards, but also catching 53 passes. As for Henry’s role, barring something unforeseen happening with Murray, the former Alabama star figures to be relegated to the backup role once again. His role could expand to include some touches in goal-line situations and in the four-minute offense, when fresh legs and a pounding style could be very effective against a tired defense. But make no mistake, this is still Murray’s show until proven otherwise.
The other running backs include Fluellen, who has looked good when given an opportunity in practice and preseason, but simply has too much ahead of him to get much of a chance. The intriguing pickup in the off-season was Muhammad, a late-round pick from Cal, who probably isn’t as big as the 5-7, 174 pounds he is listed at. Some are hoping that Muhammad could evolve into what the Titans hoped they were getting with Dexter McCluster a couple of years ago. But he has to find a way to make the roster first. His best bet there might come as a return man on special teams, where is should get a look in preseason.