Derrick Henry really made his mark when the Titans scrimmage started. He was one of the offense’s biggest stars on Monday night, displaying the same bruising running style and nifty moves he did while leading Alabama to another national championship.
Henry got plenty of work last night behind running back DeMarco Murray.
“He’s a stud. He’s a stud,’’ Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo said of Henry. “He’s definitely going to continue to get better. He has a few things to work on as far as keeping his pads down low when he gets down to the goal-line and things like that, but overall the guy is going to be a stud in this league."
Murray is no sure thing fantasy-wise after the Titans traded for him from the Eagles after an unimpressive year in 2015. Murray was coming off a 392-carry season in 2014 with the Cowboys and some speculated he may not be the same after that large of a workload. Chip Kelly's system didn't really fit Murray's running style and that's what the Titans are banking on in 2016. However, Henry is next in line if Murray does show signs of slowing down.
Terrance West stole the show in Monday night's open practice at M&T Bank Stadium with his big runs. Kenneth Dixon became the star of Saturday night's workout before 25,000 at the stadium with his open-field moves.
The one Baltimore Ravens running back that few are talking about this training camp is the one who has led the team in rushing the last two seasons. Justin Forsett finds himself in the peculiar position of being atop the depth chart while flying under the radar.
"Justin is quietly having an excellent camp," coach John Harbaugh said.
Forsett's 1,907 yards rushing the last two seasons are the eighth-most in the NFL. But unlike some of the others ahead of him on that list -- DeMarco Murray, LeSean McCoy and Le'Veon Bell -- Forsett hasn't been guaranteed a starting spot.
Harbaugh declined to name his No. 1 running back in February, and the Ravens drafted a running back in the fourth round for the third straight year. That put a huge question mark at the running back position for the offseason and training camp.
What Forsett has working for him is the best track record in this running back group. Since Forsett surprisingly filled Ray Rice's starting spot in 2014, his 22 runs over 20 yards (first), 4.9-yard rushing average (fifth) and 2,323 yards from scrimmage all rank in the top 10 among running backs the last two seasons. He is five years older than any back on the roster, the story said, and those other guys are all just making bigger plays right now. If the trend continues, it's hard not to see this turning into a committee or hot-hand situation.
His rookie season was a frustrating one in many respects, but by the end of it, David Cobb thought he might have a decent shot at being the Titans’ starting running back in 2015.
After all, Cobb carried 19 times for 73 yards in the Titans’ regular-season ending loss to Indianapolis.
All of a sudden, Cobb finds himself in a battle for the third running back position, along with Antonio Andrews, Bishop Sankey and others, the story said. Cobb is finally healthy and may be able to show what he can do to win a roster spot. It's also fair to wonder what Murray may have left after not showing much last season with Eagles.
Titans HC Mike Mularkey has talked most of the offseason about getting Marcus Mariota running much more in his second NFL season.
Mariota, the No. 2 pick of the 2015 draft and a Heisman winner, ran for 2,237 yards in his career at Oregon and will be a big part of that after running only 34 times as a rookie. The quarterback took off on two designed runs during a team period Sunday, and Mularkey said they will plan accordingly against the defenses they play while trying to avoid leaving a defender unblocked, the story said.
They drafted Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall to be the lead back but have two other backs who can handle big workloads. In order to maximize -- or justify -- the selection of a running back that high, Elliott has to get a lot of work.
Can they keep McFadden and Morris happy? In his two years as offensive coordinator, Scott Linehan has relied mostly on one back to carry the load. First it was Murray, and last year, after Joseph Randle fell apart, it was McFadden.
The story quoted Linehan as saying he already trusts Elliott to be on the field in any situation and he thinks he's a full-package back, which means Morris and McFadden are insurance and/or role players. McFadden will not be ready for camp and Lance Dunbar is likely headed for the PUP list despite recovering quicker than expected from a torn ACL, but is more of a third down back. These are all reasons Elliott is one of the top backs to draft this year.
Coming off a stellar 2014 season, DeMarco Murray’s numbers weren’t nearly as impressive last season with the Eagles, where he had few opportunities in an offense that wasn’t designed to take advantage of his strengths. The Titans plan to put Murray to work, and they’ve love how he’s handled himself over the last few months. Murray has looked good on the field, and he’s also spoken up and provided leadership. The expectation is he’ll return to form in 2016, and be the team’s workhorse in the backfield.
Related players: Derrick Henry
It’s fair to wonder if Murray’s best years are behind him after his disappointing season in Philadelphia (193 carries for 702 yards and six touchdowns). His 3.6 YPC was a full 1.1 YPC less than his 2014 average in his epic season with the Cowboys. Now he joins a Tennessee team that may have trouble staying in a run-heavy game script, and he’ll have to fend off 2nd-round pick Derrick Henry.
That may sound like a confusing statement, but it's not. Elliott is going to help Dallas' defense greatly with his ability to keep it off the field. Much like DeMarco Murray did in 2014, Elliott is going to carry the load, take pressure off of quarterback Tony Romo, and allow the defense to get plenty of rest throughout games.
"He's definitely a three-tool player that can just play on every single down," safety Barry Church said on Sirius XM NFL Radio. "And it helps out the defense a lot. It takes up our play downs by a lot. That also happened in 2014 when we had DeMarco Murray. He was punishing defenses and we were three-and-out here, three-and-out there, and we were fresh in the fourth quarter. That's how we won all of our games, by getting takeaways in the fourth quarter, but that was because we were fresh."
Church added in the piece the Cowboys could return to their 2014 form of grounding and pounding, and with an aging Romo at QB, the strategy makes sense. Couple that with a very good O-line, and it's easy to see why Elliot ranks fourth on our RB list coming into this season. With Darren McFadden's injury, he's on pace to get RB1 touches.
A year ago, Joseph Randle was preparing for his first year as the starting tailback of the Dallas Cowboys, taking over the job from DeMarco Murray. Now, Randle is moving closer and closer to an extended stay in prison.
Via TMZ, a Kansas judge has found Randle to be mentally competent to stand trial on felony charges arising from a beer-pong game gone bad.
Randle allegedly reacted to whatever happened during the game by attacking guests at a party in Kansas and then hitting multiple people with his car.
Randle remains in custody, and a competency exam resulted in a finding that Randle is mentally capable to participate in a trial.
Titans running backs coach Sylvester Croom is sold on veteran running back DeMarco Murray.
He loves his work ethic, his leadership skills, and his ability. He’s been blown away by what he’s seen this offseason.
“He’s a coach’s dream,’’ Croom said of Murray.
It’s fair to wonder if Murray’s best years are behind him after his disappointing season in Philadelphia (193 carries for 702 yards and six touchdowns). His 3.6 YPC was a full 1.1 YPC less than his 2014 average in his epic season with the Cowboys. Now he joins a Tennessee team that may have trouble staying in a run-heavy game script, and he’ll have to fend off 2nd-round pick Derrick Henry. But it's good to hear that he's off to a good start.
David Helman of DallasCowboys.com:
I don’t think it’s even a question that Ezekiel Elliott will be first string, and I’d say that even if Darren McFadden was 100 percent healthy. To your second point, I don’t think “concerned” is the word I’d use, but it’s definitely something I’d be mindful of. DeMarco Murray got 83 percent of the carries for this team in 2014, and he finished with more than 400 total touches. That’s a tad much for anyone, let alone a rookie. Fortunately, the Cowboys have vastly superior depth at the position this year. I think Zeke will finish with roughly 280-300 carries, which would put him right around 18-20 per game. That should leave plenty of carries for Alfred Morris and McFadden to get involved.
It's doubtful that the Cowboys drafted Elliott #4 overall to let him sit behind McFadden and/or Morris as a rookie. As long as he doesn't fall on his face, he should be the workhorse, with McFadden and Morris sprinkling in as change-of-pace backs. McFadden’s offseason injury only serves to help Elliott’s chances of RB1 touches.
Following a disappointing season with the Philadelphia Eagles in a system that didn’t seem to fit DeMarco Murray’s skills, the running back was asked on The Jim Rome Show if he believes Mike Mularkey’s offense in Tennessee is a better fit for him. He answered, “I do. It’s strictly downhill and that’s what I’ve been accustomed to my entire life. Nothing against last year or what happened, it just didn’t work out, but I’m very excited about this upcoming season and looking forward to it.”
“I think I’ve said it before: He clearly has a role here,’’ Mularkey said of McCluster. “The offense is multi-faceted, and he will be parts of many different packages to try and attack defenses.”
If McCluster has a sizable role in the passing game, it will put a dent in the upside of DeMarco Murray, who is a solid receiver out of the backfield.
So, what’s Titans offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie’s theory on running backs, and division of carries?
“I believe in just doing whatever we have to do, whatever is necessary to win the game,’’ Robiskie said. “Obviously we’ll have it situated going into the game, and figuring, ‘Hey, we want to go this way or go that way.’ If we get to going in the game and some guy gets the hot hand and that’s what it takes to win the game then that is what we are going to do.
“We are not going to sit down before the game and say, ‘So and so has to have 20 carries, or he has to touch it 25 times,’’’ Robiskie said. “We are going to go into the game and we’ll run the offense and try and get it called and try and execute it and whatever we feel we need to get done to win the game, that’s what we’re going to get done. But we don’t sit down and structure, so and so has to have 25 carries, so and so has to get 30 carries.”
If a certain guy gets hot, with a smile, Robiskie said, “I wouldn’t be afraid to give him 70 (carries). If I hand it to him and he keeps running for touchdowns, I’ll keep handing it to him.”
This doesn't sound particularly good for Murray, who didn't run the ball very well while in Philadelphia. He'll have to fend off Henry, so this is shaping up to be an unpredictable running game.
The plan is for Murray to be the starter, and to get the bulk of the carries. And he’s been impressive so far. I expect him to have success. But henry is going to get his share of carries as well, and you know how this works – if one guy is tearing it up, he’ll get more opportunities. We’ll just see how things play out.
Murray's stock took a hit when the Titans curiously spent a second round pick on Henry. He should still be a good bet for 300 carries, provided he stays healthy, but he'll have to outplay Henry to keep his job.
The idea had already crossed Walker's mind.
“I am pretty sure,’’ Walker said. “When you have a threat like that, and you have a tight end threat, if I am on the field at all times blocking and running routes, I think that gives us a mismatch on the field. Defenses won’t know what is going on, and that just gives you another opportunity to put points on the board.”
The Titans were 13th in pass % (percentage of pass attempts of total called plays), and that number is likely to fall with the addition of DeMarco Murray. Tennessee was 27th in total plays, so there is plenty of room for improvement. The team will have to run more plays if Walker hopes to see the same workload.
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