The Tennessee Titans enter this year with a lot of expectations. The team had a better year than many expected and many fans are ready and waiting for more. Of course, there are many parts to the equation as to if they meet those expectations or not. The defense, obviously, must be better, especially in the secondary. Along with that, the Titans must run the football like they did last season. One big reason the Titans were successful last season was the running game and one player that was crucial to that running game was veteran running back DeMarco Murray. He was essentially given up on after one season with the Chip Kelly-led Philadelphia Eagles and landed with the Titans with no one knowing what to expect. Well, to say the Titans got more than they bargained for is an understatement. Murray ran for 1,287 yards on 293 carries with 12 total touchdowns in his first season in Nashville. Going into his second year, there are many that are excited to see what else he can do with potentially more opportunities. For those that are wanting to see him have more opportunities running the football, you may want to pump the brakes on that.
Murray is undoubtedly one of the best weapons in the AFC South. Teams have to account for him each and every time out and behind that physical offensive line of the Titans, there is also the possibility that he will get loose again in some games. The thoughts of him ripping off big runs and big games sounds good until you think about how he could be overused. To give you a picture of how Murray could pan out next year, let’s take a look at his past. With Dallas, he had two seasons of over 1,200 yards rushing. He was annihilating defenses behind that special Dallas Cowboys offensive line. Many love the production, but did not pay attention to the attempts he had over those two special seasons. In his first season, he had over 1,200 yards and 217 carries. In the season following that, Murray’s carries took a huge leap up to 392 carries, which would be close to doubling the amount of carries he had in the previous season. That type of usage can wear on any running back and many will point to the way Chip Kelly used Murray in Philly, but the spring was just not there for him either and that contributed to the less than stellar season in 2015 where he only put up 702 yards on 193 carries. Last season, he went back up to 293 carries, which was 100 more than the previous season and he ran the ball well. But the reality is 1,095 of his 1,420 carries have happened in the last four seasons, which is a lot of mileage on his body. With the staggering amount of usage, the Titans would be smart to pace him during the year in order to keep him fresh when it counts down the stretch of the season.
If the Titans indeed have looked at his usage over the last four years and have truly looked into helping him pick his spots, then there is a good change of pace available at their disposal and his name is Derrick Henry. The former Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Alabama landed with the Titans in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. With he and Murray there together in Nashville, the vision of the Exotic Smashmouth offense of Titans head coach Mike Mularkey gained another solid piece. Many wondered how they would use him and his skills last season for the Titans. Well, the Titans ended up using him sparingly, as he only was able to get 110 carries backing up Murray. Heading into this season, he should be able to get more carries this year. Murray, although he is a physical runner, does not have the size and pack the power that Henry does. The effects of a 6’3′, 242 pound can wear on any team and if you give him more carries. So as the season goes on, expect him to make more of a name for himself with his production on the field. That type of talent cannot be ignored nor left on the bench. And for those that are worried about a dropoff in speed with Henry in the game, they may want to know that Henry is just as fast as Murray with the size that he is carrying.
The Tennessee Titans running game will be key for them but it also may be wise to pace Murray this season as well. As good as he was last season, you don’t want to wear him out next season if they plan to make the playoffs like he did in the last two games last year. Henry can be more than just a player that plays sparingly and it ultimately may be better for the Titans to get both going instead of having one main back to carry the full load.
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