Titans showing signs of running well with trio in backfield
The Titans have had a different player lead the team in yards rushing in each of their first three games under coach Ken Whisenhunt's running back-by-committee approach.
''We don't know each week who it's going to be,'' Whisenhunt said Wednesday. ''We have different things for those guys every week and I think it's a good thing that we've had all the contributions from those guys. So I think it's a good thing and hopefully that continues.''
All Whisenhunt cares about is being effective, and the Titans (1-2) are running the ball much better than during his first season in Tennessee. The Titans ranked 26th in the NFL averaging 90.4 yards per game while going 2-14. With Buffalo (2-2) visiting Sunday, the Titans currently are averaging 126 yards rushing.
''That to me is the first step,'' Whisenhunt said. ''All that about if it's one back or if it's different guys, I really don't care. If we can be effective running the football, it helps with a lot of things. It helps time of possession, which we're doing pretty good. It helps with some of the play action game where we've hit some shots down the field.''
The Titans currently rank third in the NFL holding the ball 33 minutes, 54 seconds.
Dexter McCluster is the veteran among the Tennessee running backs in his sixth NFL season. A Pro Bowl punt returner in 2013, McCluster had the best game of his career and the best by a Titans running back this season in a 28-14 loss at Cleveland. He ran 10 times for 98 yards, including a 44-yarder, and he also caught four passes for 28 yards.
He came close to being the first 100-yard rusher for this franchise since Dec. 29, 2013, when Chris Johnson ran for 127 yards against Houston. But McCluster said ego is no problem for the running backs.
''We all know what's important,'' McCluster said. ''We all bring something different to the table. We all support each other. Whoever it is week by week, we're going to roll with it.''
Sankey, the first running back selected in the 2014 draft at No. 54 overall out of Washington, opened the season with the best day of his young career. He ran 12 times for 74 yards and leads the team with 126 yards rushing.
''It helps keep defenses off-guard, and in a way it helps keep us fresh, so I think it's working for us so far in the rushing attack,'' Sankey said. ''We've been producing on the ground. It's going good so far.''
The Titans face a stiff challenge with the Bills defense allowing only 78.5 yards rushing per game so far. Buffalo's issues come in its backfield with LeSean McCoy recovering from an injured hamstring and rookie Karlos Williams recovering from a concussion. Boobie Dixon could wind up starting against Tennessee, a team he visited in free agency last year.
Whisenhunt said hopefully the Titans can keep running well.
''I don't care how it does, as long as it does,'' Whisenhunt said.
Notes: LB Wesley Woodyard missed practice Wednesday, and Whisenhunt said the linebacker's wife gave birth to a son. ... NT Sammie Hill returned to practice for the first time since having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Sept. 2 but was limited. RG Chance Warmack (right knee) also was limited. CBs Jason McCourty (groin) and Cody Riggs (knee) practiced fully.
AP NFL websites: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker