Hall of Famer Sees Value in Variety of Titans' Run Game
It was not just the Tennessee Titans’ number of runs in 2019 that impressed Hall of Fame tackle Jackie Slater. It was the variety.
"If you look at some teams, what you'll see is a sweep to the right, a sweep to the left, tight, inside runs to the right and tight, inside runs to the left," Slater told CBSSports,com in relation to Tennessee’s run game. "That's it. You don't see counters. You don't see bends. You don't see powers. You don't see a collection of a lot of different types of runs."
With Tennessee you do.
According to the NFL’s official statistics database, the Titans went up the middle 120 times on designed runs during the regular season. They ran behind the guards 100 times combined, the tackles 90 times combined and around the ends 114 times.
Running back Derrick Henry, of course, got the bulk of the carries. He led the NFL with 303 rushing attempts and 1,540 rushing yards.
However, those who took handoffs included tight end Jonnu Smith (four) and wide receivers A.J. Brown (three), Adam Humphries (one) and Kalif Raymond (one). Quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill and Marcus Mariota also had their share of carries that were a result of the play call rather than improvisation.
Tennessee ranked among the NFL’s top 10 only on attempts around right end, where it was eighth. On runs around left end, behind left tackle, up the middle and behind right guard it ranked between 11th and 13th. For left guard and right tackle, the number of attempts placed it between 20th and 25th.
In terms of average gain, they were among the top 10 in every direction except right guard (13th) and right tackle (17th).
That approach served them particularly well in the postseason, when they ran the ball 100 times and passed it 63.
And the way Slater sees things, it will continue to serve them well.
"I think the teams that go about their business of instituting solid play at the line of scrimmage on the offensive line and are moving the ball in the running game, those are the teams that you have to reckon with towards the end of the year,” he said. "… I think the teams that are going to really rear their heads relative to playoffs, relative to opportunities to go to the Super Bowl, relative to winning and consistency playing well on both sides of the ball -- and I'm talking about the defense and the offense as well -- are going to be the teams that have a very good balance and an understanding of how to meticulously move the ball down the field with the running game."