TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: RUNNING BACKS
In camp: Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, David Fluellen, Akrum Wadley, Dalyn Dawkins.
Offseason developments: The Titans parted ways with veteran running back DeMarco Murray, and waived Khalfani Muhammad. The team signed former Patriots running back Dion Lewis early in free agency. The Titans added Wadley and Dawkins as undrafted free agents. Mike Vrabel hired Tony Dews as the team’s running backs coach. Henry has embraced the possibility of a bigger workload, but Lewis is going to get his share as well. The running backs have looked good during the offseason under the guidance of Dews, who arrived after coaching last season at West Virginia.
In the spotlight: Henry. A Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama, Henry operated in Murray’s shadow as a rookie. He got more opportunities in 2017, and made the most of them. Henry ran for 744 yards and five touchdowns last season, and he had a memorable, 156-yard game in Kansas City in the team’s playoff win. Everyone wants to know: What will the division of carries look like between Henry and Lewis? 50-50? 65-35? 70-30? Well, a lot of that depends on how Henry performs when he’s on the field. But the plan is for him to be the lead back. He’s proven to be a strong and durable runner, but he’s also focused on getting better as a pass catcher and in pass protection.
Battle to watch: Fluellen vs Wadley. Wadley opted to sign with the Titans after considering a handful of teams after the draft, and he’s flashed during the offseason. He’s quick, he’s tough to tackle and he’s exciting to watch with the ball in his hands. He had a stellar career at Iowa, and is hungry to make the roster. But don’t sleep on Fluellen. He’s proven to a reliable pro, and he brings value because of his versatility, and the ability to play on special teams, specifically the kicking game. At this point, I think I’d be surprised if someone beats him out for the No.3 job. But will the team keep four? I think that’s the biggest question now.
Keep an eye on: Lewis. This guy is fun to watch. The do-it-all back was a terror for opposing defenses last season, including the Titans. Lewis had a big day against Tennessee in the playoffs. Seeing him up close while watching practices on the sideline, I can see why defenders have a tough time corralling him. He’s shifty, and he’s fast. So how much will Lewis be on the field this fall? Well, that’s a question that won’t be answered until the regular season, but I think it will depend on matchups, and how teams defend the Titans. And it’s not too early for Lewis to show his value.
Next up: Receivers.