How the Tennessee Titans are reshaping the backroom without Derrick Henry


The running back assist for the Tennessee Titans didn’t come in the form of a big blow after Derrick Henry was injured.

The Titans signed with their practice team veterans Adrian Peterson and D’Onta Foreman for returning reinforcements on what was – aside from a handful of low-list deals – a quiet day for the franchise forward. the NFL trade deadline.

It won’t be Ronald Jones, Melvin Gordon or the Kenyan Drake who will help stabilize the Tennessee racing game. He’ll be a 36-year-old legend at Peterson – who hasn’t been in the NFL this season – as the big name in a shorthanded backfield.

Peterson is expected to be transferred to the active roster soon, a source close to the running back at Tennessean said on Monday, although Titans running back coach Tony Dews said he was not sure if he was. he would be ready to play Sunday night against LA. Aries (7:20 p.m. CT, NBC).

But can the Titans get enough of the game to get over Henry’s absence?

It remains to be seen.

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Ideally, Peterson, who is fifth in NFL history in career rushing yards, can share the load of the first downs with Foreman, with Jeremy McNichols retaining his role as third fullback. McNichols, currently the only fullback on the active roster, has been an effective pass catcher for the Titans this season, scoring 21 receptions for 203 yards, ranking him third on the team.

Full-backs Khari Blasingame and Tory Carter are also on the 53-player list. Another running back on the practice squad is Dontrell Hilliard, primarily a returns specialist. He was bred for Sunday’s game against the Colts.

“It could change from week to week depending on who is playing well, who is doing a great job,” Dews said Tuesday. “If you can get all three of them (Peterson, Foreman, McNichols) to play at a high level, obviously that’s better for our team.

Peterson is years from his prime with the Vikings, but he has proven to be a viable NFL dating back to his 30s. The 2012 MVP enjoyed a 1,000-yard running season in 2018, aged 33, with the Washington football team, and he led the Detroit Lions with 156 carries for 604 yards last season.

Peterson has only missed one game in the past three seasons, despite his age, and has played at least 10 games in his career except two: 2014, when he was suspended without pay and charged with child abuse. children after disciplining their 4-year-old sons with a wooden switch; and 2016, when he suffered a meniscus tear in his knee.

Foreman, 25, a third-round pick in 2017, had 22 carries for 95 yards (4.3 yards per carry) in six games with the Titans last season. He was a 2,000-yard rusher at the University of Texas in 2016.

“We’re going to practice and see what (Peterson) can do and how these two guys (Peterson and Foreman) can help us in any role,” Dews said. “If it’s carrying the ball 10 times, 15 times, 20 times, or carrying it once, I don’t know what that will be until we practice and find out what we have.”

Titans standing by the trade deadline could indicate their confidence in the passing game to carry the load. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has found some rhythm in recent weeks with star receiver AJ Brown, who has caught 25 catches on 29 targets (86.2%) for 379 yards and two touchdowns in the last three games. Brown’s health and conditioning have improved from a hamstring problem earlier in the season.

Julio Jones’ status has been called into question in every game over the past few weeks due to a lingering hamstring problem. But when he plays he has proven to be still effective. Just look at Week 2 against Seattle, when he had six catches for 128 yards.

“Our whole offense is going to be hungry and wanting to prove that we are still a very good offense and that we are working within the parameters of what we do and being successful,” offensive line coach Keith Carter said Tuesday.

But it is not only the offensive that will have to intensify. It’s every aspect of this team – coaches, defense, special teams – that needs to measure up with its most important player sidelined.

Life without Henry begins.

“I don’t know what it will be until we get out and practice,” Dews said, “and find out what we have.”

Ben Arthur covers the Tennessee Titans for the USA TODAY Network. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @benyarthur.


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