NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans running back Bishop Sankey got an earful last week from running backs coach Sylvester Croom.
The topic: Hitting the hole with authority.
On Sunday night, Sankey responded with arguably his most impressive performance in a Titans uniform.
A week after struggling in a preseason loss at Atlanta, Sankey looked like a different back in a 27-14 win over the Rams. He busted through the hole on several occasions, just like Croom told him.
"I hit the hole hard, and that is what I was trying to do – hit the hole and not hesitate,'' Sankey said. "The holes were there in practice, and coach Croom emphasized us hitting the hole hard. Every crease I had I was trying to hit it downhill and pick up as many yards as I can."
Sankey carried the ball six times against the Rams. He busted off an 18-yard run on his first carry, and had a 19-yard scamper later. He averaged 7.5 yards a tote en route to 45 rushing yards in one quarter of play.
A week ago, Sankey managed just 15 yards on eight carries, a 1.9-yard average.
"I think he ran hard. I think he was downhill, not a lot of dancing,'' guard Byron Bell said of Sankey. "I think he was running with a purpose, and I think when you run with a purpose in this league you are going to get a lot of yards and I think he did that."
Sankey's performance came behind a reshaped offensive line that included Bell at left guard and rookie Jeremiah Poutasi at right tackle. Last week, Andy Levitre lined up at left guard, and Bell played right tackle.
Sankey said the offensive line "blocked really well tonight" and "I think they worked really well as a unit."
"It is something to build off moving forward,'' Sankey said.
Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said he'll need to watch tape, but suspects Sankey's resurgence could probably be attributed to him being more aggressive, and improved play up front.
"It was probably a combination of both,'' Whisenhunt said. "Bishop, I thought last week, was a victim of a couple of different looks that weren't great for him and tonight maybe he was the benefit of a little better blocking, but I thought he certainly ran the ball well."
This much is certain: Sankey's performance was encouraging. A year ago he led the team with 569 rushing yards, but he struggled at times during his rookie year. Sankey's longest run a year ago was 22 yards, and he never had more than 61 yards in a game.
By all accounts, Sankey has had a solid training camp, even with the emergence of a few other young backs – David Cobb and Antonio Andrews.
"It feels good to be able to put together some explosive runs and help the team out,'' Sankey said. "It is definitely something I am looking to build on and I know other guys are looking to build on it as well."
The Titans take on the St. Louis Rams in their 2015 preseason home opener at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)