NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Antonio Andrews believes he sold himself short a year ago with his goal of just trying to make the Tennessee roster. He adjusted his expectations this offseason, and now the running back is getting closer to becoming the Titans' starter in a crowded backfield.
The undrafted free agent out of Western Kentucky is coming off his best game yet, running 10 times for a career-high 57 yards against Atlanta. Even better, the 5-foot-10, 225-pound bowling ball of a runner punished the NFL's stingiest run defense with stiff arms and simply mowing through defenders.
It was a performance that likely earned him more carries possibly Sunday when the Titans visit Houston (2-5).
''I think so, and I know the running back position comes in terms of who gets those,'' Titans offensive coordinator Jason Michael said Thursday. ''Antonio has done a really good job ... last week of being physical, and that's what we asked him to do last week. The package and the plays that he has he was physical and did that. We've got to continue in those plays to let him do those things. I would say yes in terms of earning more snaps.''
Right now the Titans (1-5) rank 20th in the NFL running for an average of 102.5 yards per game. Tennessee has been using a trio of running backs with Dexter McCluster running for a team-high 176 yards on 35 carries compared to 39 carries for 159 yards for Bishop Sankey and 38 rushes for 138 yards for Andrews. Sankey didn't carry once in the 10-7 loss to Atlanta and didn't catch the one pass thrown to him.
Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt agrees that Andrews deserves more carries after how the second-year running back has played lately. Whisenhunt noted that Andrews missed a couple weeks of training camp and then the first two games this season with an injury.
''And he was largely an unproven commodity coming into this season,'' Whisenhunt said. ''So what we've seen in the last couple of weeks is really our first exposure to Antonio in this season, and it's definitely a positive.''
Andrews broke out of a group running back approach in college by starting his last 24 games and running for 3,674 yards with a 5.9-yard average per carry. Andrews chose to sign with Tennessee as an undrafted free agent, keeping him close both to his college and where he went to high school in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and was a dual-threat quarterback.
As a rookie, Andrews started on the practice squad before being signed to the roster Oct. 21, 2014. He played in four games primarily as a kickoff returner, and Andrews didn't get his first carry until the third game this season.
''What I've been doing is the same thing I've been doing all training camp before I had that hamstring tweak,'' Andrews said. ''Now I'm just showing them that I'm accountable, I'm reliable, and I can do everything I do in practice in the games. I guess he's just now seeing that firsthand, and so hopefully, he's ready to rock with me.''
Against the Falcons, Andrews broke off runs of 15 and 17 yards with his most impressive coming when he stiff-armed a defender before putting his shoulder into an Atlanta cornerback Robert Alford in the fourth quarter.
''I just like running the ball,'' Andrews said. ''I run with aggression. I got a lot on my mind, a lot on my chest so y'all see it when I run.''
Notes: QB Marcus Mariota practiced for a second straight day Thursday but was limited by the sprained MCL in his left knee. Whisenhunt said the rookie is improving and the Titans hope Mariota can do more Friday. ... Whisenhunt, who has been ill this week, was stung on the right ring finger by a bee during practice. ... CB Jason McCourty (hamstring) also was limited. CB Perrish Cox (hamstring), WR Harry Douglas (ribs) and C Andy Gallik (concussion) did not practice. S Michael Griffin (knee) and NT Sammie Hill (right knee) practiced fully.
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