The Tennessee Titans’ running woes: Panic or patience?

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Since the days of Eddie George plowing through opposing defenders, the running game has traditionally been a staple of the Tennessee Titans’ offensive attack. Last year was no different, with rookie Chris Johnson and the plump version of LenDale White causing nightmares for the opposition.

Through three preseason games, the Titans’ vaunted smashmouth attack has been anything but dominant. The team is averaging a paltry 72 yards per game and their 2.8 yards per carry is the worst in the league.

Contrary to their nicknames, the explosive Chris Johnson has yet to dash to daylight, and the now-slender LenDale White has been getting smashed consistently.

Of course, it’s only preseason, but should we be getting concerned about the Titans’ uncharacteristic running struggles?


As the picture that flanks this article indicates, the Titan running backs have been swarmed by a sea of defenders on many running plays. Stalwarts Chris Johnson and LenDale White have had little room to operate, to say the least.

A constantly crowded line of scrimmage offers a couple of possible explanations for Johnson and White’s running woes. In my opinion, it’s a classic example of an either or situation: either the Titans are failing to get a push on their offensive line, or the opposing teams are game-planning to stop the two-toned blue smashmouth machine.

I’ll choose the latter for $500, Alex. Here’s why…

Let’s take a closer look at the Titans’ first three opponents this preseason. First up, you had the Buffalo Bills, a team with a coaching staff facing a win-or-else season. Last weekend the Titans faced the Bucs, a squad with a new head coach. Finally, on Friday night, the Cowboys were determined to provide a good showing in the grand unveiling of their colossal new stadium.

To make a long story short, the Titans have faced three teams taking a win-mode approach to the preseason rather than merely evaluating talent, especially when the starters were in the game.

Of course, momentum is an important element and it would behoove the Titans to attain some in the running game as they prepare to face Pittsburgh’s stifling run defense in the season opener. Thus, I’m expecting a better performance out of Smash and Dash against the Titans’ final two preseason opponents.

Therefore, although the preseason numbers indicate otherwise, I’m not too concerned about the Titans failing to run the football against teams that are game-planning to stop them in contests that are meaningless to the outcome of the 2009 NFL season.

What are your thoughts, guys? Are you, like myself, preaching patience, or is it time to panic regarding the team’s running struggles?  

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6 Responses to “The Tennessee Titans’ running woes: Panic or patience?”

  1. Will Says:

    I generally don’t panic about anything that happens during the preseason. The Titans’ running game has been consistently poor, except for Javon Ringer. The unit’s performance in next week’s game, in which the starters should play major minutes, will signal whether it’s time to panic.

  2. wes Says:

    I think it is also important to remember Fisher keeps saying they are not scheming for teams yet. It looks like they are just running through a few scripted plays trying to get so many touches for each of the key positions. So Collins is not chaning call at the line when he see 8 or 9 in the box. Similar with defense. Other than the poor tackling in Dallas, it just looks like they are running very vanilla formations with no adjusments for situtation or opposing talent. Again, it looks a lot more like trying out base arrangements than actual game planning. Also I think it is significant the titans had only four days of actual practice before the Hall of Fame game, hence they seem to be using these games like live drills rather than actual games. Would be nice to see a few long runs nonetheless . . .

  3. Drexel Perry Says:

    Thanks for commenting, guys.
    With the starters playing more minutes against the Browns, the running game will definitely be an area that I’ll be paying close attention to on Saturday.

  4. David H. Says:

    Not to go off subject but…This is exactly why the passing game needs to be on point this year. I would’nt panic yet, but teams will make taking away the run a primary focus and start bringing more guys down for run support. The recievers need to make as many plays down field as they can, cause I still get the feeling that teams aren’t going to feel intimidated by our passing game…No matter whos under center.

  5. David H. Says:

    Not to go off subject but…This is exactly why the passing game needs to be on point this year. I would’nt panic yet, but teams will make taking away the run a primary focus and start bringing more guys down for run support. The recievers need to make as many plays down field as they can, cause I still get the feeling that teams aren’t going to feel intimidated by our passing game…No matter whos under center.

  6. Bob Loblaw Says:

    I don’t see why things are going to magically turn around in the next two games. The same rationale can be applied to Cleveland (new coach who’s already somewhat on the hot seat) and Green Bay (new defensive coordinator & new scheme). So if the Titans’ running game comes out flat, do we just chalk it up to facing teams with something to prove in the preseason again?
    I understand that Otto isn’t on par with Stewart, so that hurts a bit. I get it that teams are stacking the line of scrimmage, but that’s all the more reason that the offense – with all it’s new weapons on the outside – should be able to throw downfield more effectively. Harris also needs to work on getting the snaps off cleanly.
    I don’t think that this preseason is the end of the world, but it is more reminiscent of the years when the team would get off to slow starts in the regular season (2002). The last two years, they have looked solid in the preseason, and have started the season strong. I don’t see them jumping out to a fast start this year. I don’t think that this is a team that can/will just turn it on without building some momentum in the preseason.

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