TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: RUNNING BACKS
In camp (6): Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, David Fluellen, Dalyn Dawkins, Jeremy McNichols, Alex Barnes.
Offseason developments: On the heels of a 1,059-yard season, Henry showed up for the offseason program in great shape, and ready to roll. In offseason interviews he brushed off questions about his December to remember, and put the focus on what’s ahead. Lewis, who had 59 catches in 2018, looked good in offseason practices, and he'll be a factor again this fall. Fluellen beefed up, adding 16-17 pounds, and he worked at fullback in addition to running back this offseason. The Titans signed Jeremy McNichols off the Broncos practice squad in December, and he returns, along with Dalyn Dawkins, who spent time on the team’s active roster and the practice squad last season. The Titans signed Alex Barnes as an undrafted free agent.
In the spotlight: Derrick Henry. In five games in the month of December, Henry’s rushing totals included 97 carries for 625 yards and eight touchdowns. Henry set a franchise record with 238 yards in a game vs. the Jaguars, and he piled up 170 yards a week later in a win over the Giants. His 625 yards were the most by any NFL player in any calendar month in 2018. So what will Henry do for an encore? Well, OC Arthur Smith said he intends to ride Henry, who is headed into the final year of his contract.
Battle to watch: McNichols vs. Dawkins vs. Barnes: Henry and Lewis are going to provide the 1-2 punch in some fashion, and Fluellen’s versatility makes him valuable, and a safe bet to make the roster in my opinion. So that’s three. Will the Titans keep four running backs on the 53? I’m skeptical, so the battle for the extra spot is probably for a spot on the practice squad. The Titans saw enough from McNichols to go get him last year, and I thought he looked good in offseason work. But Dawkins and Barnes will have a chance to make their case in camp.
Keep an eye on: Dion Lewis. Everyone, it seems, wants to see more of Henry. And I get it -- he was unstoppable at the end of last season. But Lewis is going to play. Just how much depends on how the two running backs perform with their opportunities. Lewis was second on the team in rushing yards (517) and receiving yards (400) in 2018. He’s a matchup problem out of the backfield. With a year under his belt in Tennessee, I expect Lewis to be even more effective this fall, which could increase his playtime. Unless, of course, Henry makes it impossible to keep 22 off the field.
Next up: Offensive line.
Titans Online looks back at RB Derrick Henry's 2018 season, in which he rushed for a career-high 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns. (AP Photos)