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Titans positional analysis – running backs

The Titans were dealt two body blows to their running game this offseason.
Most notable was the loss of Travis Henry in free agency. I was one of those who was critical of Tennessee GM Mike Reinfeldt for not being able to re-sign him, but I understand how it happened. Not that I have to like it.
LenDale White delivered the other blow by showing up for OTAs out of shape, overweight, and nursing a hamstring, the same thing which caused his draft stock to plummet a year ago. It’s once more raised questions about his dedication, commitment and work ethic.
Enough questions were raised to make the Titans spend a second-round draft pick for another running back and to re-sign Chris Brown, who had fallen out of favor and was allowed to walk as an unrestricted free agent.
I expect the Titans to keep three backs on the roster this year. Jeff Fisher has declared the competition at running back to be wide open this preseason.
If the season was starting next Sunday, I’d want Brown to start and be on the field for third downs. Although he hasn’t proved much yet, I’d want White in for short yardage situations. Until I see Chris Henry in training camp and preseason, I won’t have a feel for how he’ll fit into the mix.
It will be tough for someone to replace Travis Henry’s production. The best thing the running backs have going for them is an improved offensive line, which should help them all out.
Here’s a look at the players:
Chris Brown – After spending four up and down years with the Titans, Brown returns to the team on a one-year contract and this is another chance for him to make a statement for future employment consideration. Brown brings the capability of being a good third-down back. He’s been the best third-down RB for the Titans the last several years, with the ability to pick up blitzers to protect the quarterback and is also effective coming out of the backfield to catch passes. Whether he can perform well enough in training camp to reclaim the starting job remains to be seen but I like having him available for third-down situations.
Chris Henry – Not to be confused with the Bengals’ player with the same name, this Chris Henry was the Titans’ second-round draft pick this year. A workout warrior, he should be the favorite to be the #2 back because of his conditioning and work ethic. A lot of people, myself included, questioned the Titans for selecting him in the draft sooner than most thought was warranted. The thing that worries me about Henry is his unspectacular and pedestrian college career. Fisher claims Henry’s lack of good numbers was the result of the system he was in, but as far as I’m concerned, Henry will have to prove himself in training camp and then in the regular season.
LenDale White – A year ago White was overweight and had a bad hamstring. He was behind on the depth chart but eventually moved up to second by default when Brown went to Jeff Fisher’s doghouse. Same story, second verse – White is overweight again this offseason and has another hamstring issue. He’s only had a few days on the field the entire offseason this far. White is one of those frustrating players who has the raw natural talent to be a good player but seems to be lazy. He doesn’t have a good history of working out and taking care of himself. Hopefully, Brown and Henry will light a fire under him. I was high on White when the Titans drafted him last year, but my opinion of him has gone steadily downhill since then.
Quinton Ganther – Playing little in his rookie year, he was best known for committing a block in the back to nullify a Pacman Jones punt return for a touchdown in the three-point loss to Miami last year. Ganther spent most of his time on the practice squad and seems destined to do so again this season if White decides to get his act together.
Dontrell Moore – He should be viewed as another camp body who does a lot of the grunt work to allow the veterans save their legs a little. He’s definitely a very long shot to make the team.
I’ll also include the fullbacks in this analysis rather than doing a separate review of them.
Ahmard Hall – As an undrafted free agent, Hall beat out the veteran Troy Fleming for the position a year ago. He showed excellent lead blocking ability reminiscent of former Titan Lorenzo Neal. Nicknamed “The Big Marine” by Vince Young, he served tours of duty with the Marines in the war zones of Kosovo and Afghanistan before walking on and earning a scholarship at Texas. One of my favorite players, Hall also contributes on special teams, primarily as the upback on kick returns.
Jonathan Evans – Another camp body, a legsaver, as some players call them. See comments on Dontrell Moore above. A former NFL Europa player, he’s been released after brief stints with two other NFL teams.