NASHVILLE, (AP) — The Tennessee Titans no longer have Chris Johnson as a threat in their backfield.
Rather than relying on one weapon in their backfield to be the focal point of the running game, the Titans believe more options could mean more production.
Tennessee parted ways with Johnson last month instead of paying his $8 million base salary for 2014. Johnson, who had played for the Titans his entire six-year career, eventually signed with the New York Jets. Johnson, a 2,000-yard rusher in 2009, averaged just 3.9 yards per carry in 2013 while running for 1,077 yards.
The Titans might select a running back next week during the NFL Draft. No matter who lines up in the backfield - whether it is Shonn Greene, Dexter McCluster, Jackie Battle, Leon Washington or a rookie — that player will be expected to contribute in a variety of ways.
“If you look at the tape of the San Diego Chargers, their running backs did everything,” Washington said. “They caught out of the backfield, they protected well and all the backs had to know everything. That’s one thing I like because it definitely puts the pressure on the backs to know the system and do a lot more. If you watch guys like Danny Woodhead and guys in the San Diego system, catching 70-plus balls, that’s a big advantage for a quarterback.”
New Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt was the Chargers’ offensive coordinator last year and brought San Diego tight ends coach Jason Michael with him to serve as his offensive coordinator in Tennessee. That versatile offense was a big part of the Chargers’ success a year ago.
“It was effective last year in San Diego,” Whisenhunt said. “I’ve seen a lot of other teams that do that. We’re trying to be better as an offense and defense in general. However we do that, that’s what we’re working at.”
The running backs on the roster realize the importance of versatility in this offense.
“We’ve got a couple of guys that do different things,” Greene said. “I think that’s what the league is coming to now. ... It’s certain guys doing certain things, and everybody playing to the best of their strengths.”
Greene will likely be the Titans’ power back, but the most interesting option could be McCluster, a free-agent acquisition from Kansas City. McCluster will split time between running back and receiver.
“One thing we talked about is that they really understood the versatility I have,” McCluster said. “One thing they said to me is the more I can learn, the more opportunity I will have. Right now, it’s all about learning as much as I can and taking advantage of the opportunity. I like them both the same, so that just makes it that much more fun. I know I can go out there and be that guy at the receiver (spot), and I know I can go out there and be that guy as a runner.”
Notes: Not surprisingly, the Titans will decline the fifth-year option on quarterback Jake Locker, which would make him a free agent after 2014. The option would have been fully guaranteed and would have paid Locker $14.6 million in 2015. . The Titans worked out a pair of receivers on a tryout basis Thursday. The Titans looked at Brian Robiskie and Jheranie Boyd.