NASHVILLE – It likely is just a coincidence. However, it is noteworthy that the Tennessee Titans designated running back Darrynton Evans for return to practice on Wednesday.
Coaches and team medical personnel now have a three-week window to evaluate the 2020 third-round draft pick while he remains on injured reserve, where he has been since the start of the regular season.
The move comes in the wake of running back Jeremy McNichols’ emergence as a viable – and productive – option in the passing game.
McNichols set career-highs with eight receptions for 74 yards in Sunday’s overtime loss to the New York Jets and is now Tennessee’s leading receiver on the year with 15 catches for 134 yards and one touchdown. Plus, he has served as the Titans’ primary kickoff return man for the last two games.
Evans was drafted with the idea that he would be a third-down/change-of-pace back who could factor in the passing game and challenge defenses with the sort of quickness and elusiveness that Derrick Henry does not possess. There were even times during the offseason that Evans practiced with wide receivers in order to focus on his route-running and pass-catching.
He also was a leading candidate each of the last two years to serve as the Titans’ primary kickoff return man.
To date, Evans has played in just five games. He missed the first two in 2020 and then went on injured reserve in Week 5 due to a recurring hamstring injury. He has spent the first four weeks of this season on injured reserve, again with a hamstring injury.
He has caught just two passes for 27 yards and a touchdown and has run the ball 14 times for 54 yards. He also has returned nine kickoffs for an average of 22.9 yards per return.
Given McNichols’ continued development (he also has six carries for 29 yards this season) it is fair to wonder that once Evans is returned to the active roster – whenever that is – whether his job – as it was imagined in the last two offseasons – is even available at this point or if he will have to find a new way to get on the field.