By Jim Wyatt – TennesseeTitans.com
TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: RUNNING BACKS
In camp (7): Derrick Henry, Darrynton Evans, Senorise Perry, Dalyn Dawkins, Shaun Wilson, Cameron Scarlett, FB Khari Blasingame.
Offseason developments: Henry was named the FedEx Ground Player of the Year following the 2019 season after leading the NFL with a career-best 1,540 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns on 303 carries. Henry signed a 4 year contract extension on Wednesday. Henry’s offseason workouts once again created a stir on social media – the big man seems to keep getting bigger and faster. The Titans released Dion Lewis, who didn’t have much success last season, and he ended up signing with the Giants. The Titans drafted Appalachian State running back Darrynton Evans in the third round of the NFL Draft, and the team signed former Bears/Dolphins/Bills running back/special teams ace Senorise Perry in late April. The Titans also added Stanford’s Cameron Scarlett as an undrafted free agent. Back in January the Titans signed former Buccaneers and Redskins running back Shaun Wilson, who played collegiately at Duke, to a futures contract.
In the spotlight: Henry. After playing in his first Pro Bowl last season, Henry wants to keep on keeping on in 2020. Last fall, Henry ranked third in NFL with 18 total touchdowns, and he ranked second in the AFC and fourth in the NFL with 1,746 yards from scrimmage. Henry was a real workhorse in the postseason, setting a franchise playoff record with 182 rushing yards at New England (1/4/20) before resetting it with 195 rushing yards at Baltimore (1/11/20). He was the only running back in the NFL to average more than 100 rushing yards per game (102.7) last season. This offseason, there’s been a lot of talk about reducing Henry’s workload in 2020. None of it, however, has come from Henry, who should make it tough once again to take him off the field.
Battle to watch: Senorise Perry vs. Dalyn Dawkins/Shaun Wilson/Cameron Scarlett. The thinking here is Blasingame makes the team as a FB/RB behind Henry and Evans. So that’s three. Will the Titans keep a 4th back? Well, at the start of camp I’m giving the edge to Perry for the No.4 spot, ahead of Dawkins, Wilson and Scarlett. Dawkins has a chance to prove himself as a runner once again, but his lack of special value hurts his case. Scarlett is a better UDFA candidate than Alex Barnes from Kansas State a year ago in camp, and Wilson has some versatility as a pass catcher and punt returner. Former Titans running back David Fluellen remains a free agent, and a guy to keep an eye on as a possibility to join the mix. Fluellen’s injury history hurts his chances of being added to compete, but his knowledge of the system and comfort level with the coaching staff and offense keeps the possibility alive. If Perry can impress in camp, he’ll quash those chances and nab the spot himself.
Keep an eye on: Darrynton Evans. The 5-10, 205-pound Evans posted 4,642 all-purpose yards at Appalachian State, with 34 career touchdowns. In 2019, Evans produced 2,064 all-purpose yards with 1,480 rushing, 198 yards as a receiver and 386 yards on kickoff returns. The do-it-all Evans is a speedster – he ran a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, which was second among all running backs, and he was once clocked at a 4.36 while on campus at Appalachian State. I’m thinking Evans will be a clear upgrade over Lewis. Just how much he’s used as a rookie will depend on how he fares in training camp, and with his opportunities earlier in the season. He should be fun to watch.
Jim Wyatt is the Senior Writer and Editor for TennesseeTitans.com