TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: RUNNING BACKS
In camp (7): RB Derrick Henry, RB Darrynton Evans, RB Brian Hill, RB Jeremy McNichols, RB Mekhi Sargent, RB-FB Khari Blasingame, FB Tory Carter.
Offseason developments: After being named NFL Offensive Player of the Year in February, Henry went back to work. His superhuman offseason workout videos once again went viral, and when he showed up at the team's minicamp he looked fit and ready to go. Back in March, the Titans signed veteran Brian Hill, formerly of the Falcons. Darrynton Evans worked some in the slot at receiver in OTAs, and he looked good. McNichols is back, but the team didn't re-sign Senorise Perry, who remains a free agent. Blasingame has added size and bulk, which should help him even more as a blocker. The team added a pair of undrafted free agents in Carter (LSU) and Sargent (Iowa). Sargent is small in stature (5-8, 208), but he's competitive and showed some quickness in offseason work.
In the spotlight: Henry. Heading into his sixth NFL season, Henry has shown no signs of slowing down. He's led the league in rushing two years in a row, and he's coming off a year when he racked up 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns. Henry has continued to work on finding ways to improve, and he spent breaks in the action during minicamp playing catch with running backs coach Tony Dews. The Titans have a new offensive coordinator in Todd Downing, and some new weapons at receiver in Julio Jones and Josh Reynolds. The Titans might not have to rely on Henry quite as much in 2021, but if the train keeps on rolling down the track, why derail a good thing?
Battle to watch: Brian Hill vs. Jeremy McNichols. A fifth-round draft pick of the Falcons in the 2017 NFL Draft out of Wyoming, Hill is in line to win a back-up running back spot. He has valuable experience, with 45 games played and 982 yards and three touchdowns on 209 carries in his career. With the Falcons in 2020, Hill ran for 465 yards and a touchdown on 100 attempts while catching 25 passes for 199 yards. Hill needs to settle in during camp and catch the football on a consistent basis. Assuming he does, he should be an upgrade over Perry from a year ago. Plus, he can help on special teams. The competitive McNichols won't go down without a fight, something he's proven during his time with the team. But he'll first need to get healthy, as he'll begin camp on the team's Physically Unable to Perform list.
Keep an eye on: Darrynton Evans. A third-round pick out of Appalachian State in the 2020 NFL Draft, Evans didn't make much of an impact as a rookie. He was slowed with injuries, and really only showed what he's capable of in small glimpses. Evans enjoyed a solid offseason, and he figures to be in the mix a lot more in his sophomore NFL season. Evans generated some buzz when he lined up at receiver in OTAs, but let's get this straight – he's a running back. But yes, he could be used in situations where he'd line up outside to find himself in a favorable matchup. Just how much Evans factors into the plan could depend on Evans and his health, and performance.
Next up: Offensive line.