Samkon Gado has been with the Tennessee Titans a week. Already, though, the veteran running back has as many rushing touchdowns as Chris Johnson this preseason – and that’s as many as anybody’s had in more than a decade.
Not bad for a guy who was not even expected to play, and a real good sign for the team as a whole given that recent history suggests the ability to score on the ground in the preseason typically translates to wins in the regular season.
“I did not want to put him in a position where he was going to risk muscle pulls, or injury and those kind of things because he hadn’t been to camp,” coach Jeff Fisher said Tuesday. “So we communicated, each day he did extra work after practice and felt good so I said, ‘OK, we’ll try to get you some carries.’”
Gado, added to the roster on Aug. 17 in the wake of the injury to rookie Stafon Johnson, scored a pair of rushing touchdowns in Monday’s 24-10 preseason victory over the Arizona Cardinals at LP Field.
Both scores came on 4-yard runs fewer than three minutes apart in the fourth quarter, and brought to five the number of rushing touchdowns the Titans have already this preseason. Johnson also has found the end zone twice (once in each contest) and rookie LeGarrette Blount has done so once.
The five rushing touchdowns matched the most the franchise has had in a single preseason since it became the Titans in 1999. It also had five in 2000, 2002 and 2006.
It’s a notable development given that in 2000 Tennessee finished with the NFL’s best regular-season record (13-3) and in 2002 it went 11-5 and reached the AFC championship game. In 2006, the Titans lost their first five games but won eight of their final 11 and remained in the playoff chase all the way to the end of the season.
“(Gado) has a real good sense for the zone (blocking) scheme,” Fisher said. “His aiming points are good, his shoulders are square, he’s got the ability to cut back and knife and get through a small area, and for a small guy he runs with good power. That is kind of why we brought him here.”
With two games remaining, Johnson and Gado already are the first teammates during the Titans’ era with multiple rushing touchdowns in the same preseason.
The last to get two was quarterback Vince Young in 2007, and the last running back to so was Travis Henry in 2006. Eddie George (1999 and 2003), Antowain Smith (2004) and Mike Green (2000). Tennessee ended up with a losing record in the regular season once in those years.
The time the team had a player score three rushing touchdowns in a single preseason was 1998, when Rodney Thomas did it for the Tennessee Oilers.
While the numbers offer hope for the coming campaign, there are no guarantees for Gado.
The last Titans’ player to score two touchdowns in a single preseason game was wide receiver Dominique Edison, who had two scoring receptions in the 2009 preseason finale. Edison made the roster out of training but was inactive six times, spent three weeks on the practice squad and twice dressed but did not get in a game. He did not catch a pass in the regular season.
Tennessee does not yet have a passing touchdown this preseason, but that might be a good thing.