Titans' ground-and-pound identity appears here to stay

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Expect the ground-and-pound attack that carried the Tennessee Titans to a 4-1 finish to last season to be back in 2019.

The Titans averaged 160.2 yards rushing per game over their final five games of 2018, behind 247-pound running back Derrick Henry, and their recent moves suggest continued dedication to the ground game. Their most significant free-agent acquisition this offseason was 6-foot-5, 323-pound guard Rodger Saffold, a punishing run-blocker. And over the past two weeks, the team has met with and worked out three running back prospects who could be ideal complements to the bruising Henry.

The Titans spent extra time with Temple RB Ryquell Armstead after his school's pro day on March 18. Their meeting with RB Devin Singletary lasted 45 minutes after Florida Atlantic's pro day on March 26. Most recently, on March 28, Tennessee was among multiple teams that put Texas A&M RB Trayveon Williams through a workout. According to a source, the Titans came away from the workout extremely impressed with Williams.


Williams shows off speed on 93-yard TD run

Trayveon Williams uses his blockers and turns on the jets for a 93-yard touchdown, his third rushing score of the game.

Having rushed for 1,760 yards in 2018, Williams was the most productive of the three running backs on whom Tennessee has recently focused. Williams is a shifty, explosive back who threatens to create a long run any time he touches the ball. The marriage of his vision and footwork made him a home run hitter in Texas A&M's zone scheme. At 5-foot-8, 206 pounds, Williams isn't a big back, but he is more than willing to take on defensive players in pass protection.

Williams is a capable pass-catcher, too. He points to New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara as one of the players he likes to watch because of his receiving skills.

The Titans seem committed to giving the bulk of the carries to Henry, but Dion Lewis will also be mixed in for a change of pace and to provide a receiving threat out of the outfield. That was the clear message coming from the owners meetings.

"[Henry] proved that he can step in there and carry the load, and we’ll try to put that right back on him," GM Jon Robinson said. "We’ll be mindful of the carries and the touches that he’s getting."

“We’re going to have to be able to use Dion and whoever else we have on the roster to complement [Derrick] in different aspects," head coach Mike Vrabel said.

That's where a rookie such as Williams could come into play.

Lewis will be 30 in 2020 when he enters the third season of a four-year, $19.8 million contract he signed with the team in 2018. If Tennessee wants to get younger and save money, they could release Lewis before the 2020 season, saving $4.6 million in cap space with a 2019 rookie taking over as the complementary back to Henry.

If Robinson does select a running back in the draft, he'll benefit from the addition of Saffold, whose bulldozing blocking ability next to left tackle Taylor Lewan should inspire new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith to call plenty of running plays to the left side. Saffold is also athletic enough to be used on pulling blocks to open up lanes on the outside.

Robinson may not be done tweaking the offensive line, either.

As of now, Ben Jones is the center and Kevin Pamphile is slotted to be the right guard. The Titans have been connected to NC State center Garrett Bradbury and Texas A&M's Erik McCoy throughout the draft process. The Titans met with both players at the combine. Adding either Bradbury or McCoy would likely lead to Jones moving to guard. Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom and Oklahoma guard Dru Samia have also drawn interest from the Titans. Either could be capable of starting at right guard for Tennessee.