The questions that surrounded the Tennessee Titans at running back this offseason now appear to be a distant memory.
Through three games this season, the Titans are now second in the league in rushing yards, as the tandem of Chris Brown and LenDale White have combined for 427 yards as part of the Titans’ 521-yard rushing attack as a team.
As for the two running backs who have helped make it happen, the question to them was not if, it was when.
“With what our offense did last year and the way we ran the ball, that was our goal [this year] to lead the league in rushing. That’s what we go out there every day and work hard every week for,” said Brown, who was re-signed in June to help share the load after Travis Henry and his 1,211 yards departed for Denver.
White, who has started all three games thus far for the Titans, said he never had any doubt, given that the offensive line was returning intact and the confidence he had in his own abilities.
“We believe we can do anything,” White said. “We heard all the talk about what we weren’t going to be and what we couldn’t do. All that time we were sitting here knowing what we could do. We don’t want nobody to take it the wrong way as far as being cocky, but with the five offensive linemen we have and with [fullback] Ahmard Hall and [quarterback] Vince Young, the sky is the limit for us.”
It didn’t hurt that the coaches professed confidence in them either, even while doubters emerged.
“We know the coaches have believed in us for a long time,” White said. “Jeff Fisher always tells you how he feels about his team and the guys who play for him. All summer and all spring long, he called me and we talked a lot. I reassured him when he asked me if I could do it and if I was ready for the whole challenge. I told him I was and he said, ‘I’m behind you 100 percent.’ And he’s showed me that this whole year.”
The Titans are averaging 4.5 yards per carry and 173.7 yards per game. That total is a bit skewed by their 282-yard performance in the opener, but the running game has still been solid in the two games that have followed, despite bigger challenges.
“We got off to a great start, so now teams are bringing more people down in the box. Our offense is based on how our running game goes,” Brown said. “It’s tough to go 280 yards week in and week out, but we’ve just got to go out there and keep putting up solid performances like we’ve been doing.”
The offensive line has been a key in the Titans’ success, as the running backs are quick to admit. But the linemen like to see that No. 2 ranking, even if it is early in the season.
“Your goal as an offensive lineman is to be able to establish the run, and when you’re on the offensive line, the only stats you’re known for is how many yards you gain [as a team] on the ground and how many sacks you give up,” center Kevin Mawae said. “To say that we’re ranked No. 2 in the league in rushing is a great accomplishment, but we’re only three weeks into the season. We’ve got a lot of football to play. The goal will be to try and be consistent throughout the year, and somewhere at the end of the year, be up there still.”
Fisher believes the Titans haven’t yet hit their peak in terms of rushing performance.
“I think we can still run the ball better,” Fisher said. “I think we took close to 30 yards off the board, in rushing yards, last Monday night with the snap that got away from Vince, with the reverse, and then with the kneel-downs. You add 30 yards to that, and you’ve got a pretty good game. At least you’re consistent.”
BAD DAY: Keith Bulluck picked a bad day for his trip to Austin with teammates Bo Scaife and Vince Young Saturday as the Texas Longhorns were trounced 41-21 by Kansas State.
“I actually fell asleep. We went up in the box and I woke up and it was ugly,” Bulluck said. “There was a lot of hospitality. They even had a No. 53 Bulluck Texas jersey made for me. I appreciate the love. Hopefully, they can get a win next time.”
Bulluck said he hopes to return the favor by taking his teammates to New York next March for the Big East Basketball Tournament.
MOVES/TRYOUTS: The Titans re-signed running back Quinton Ganther to the practice squad on Tuesday and waived tight end Cooper Wallace, a former CPA standout.
Several defensive players were in for Tuesday tryouts, including defensive tackles Titus Adams, Kendrick Allen and Matthias Askew, defensive ends Dave Ball, Eric Powell and Julian Jenkins and linebackers Jordan Beck, Dennis Haley and Wesley Mallard.