Yeah, the run game is pathetically bad. Brandon Weeden had managed more rushing yards this year than Chris Johnson has. To say I'm unsatisfied with this is to say that genocide is kind of a bummer. I'm absolutely mental about the entire situation. To see, at one point, one of the generation's great talents at the running back position squander away his final years of expected effectiveness is becoming too much for me to bear. The vitriol he is getting is undoubtedly deserved and he knows it. I'll be a Chris Johnson fan until the day I die, his goofy mannerisms and electric playmaking ability has made a believer out of this guy. With that being said, time to start looking at guys to share the load.I believe the NFL is headed in a different direction than the "feature back" system. I think stables of running backs will be utilized a lot like we're seeing in Washington, Carolina, and New Orleans right now. One guy may get the lions share of carries, but you'll be hard pressed to find a guy with 20+ attempts every game. They may not be getting great results, but give it time, this system will eventually be commonplace. To use a less-than-perfect parallel, it's not unlike the bullpen in baseball. There may be situational runners or they might just view the extra depth as fresh legs, either way, I think that NFL teams are going to start to catch on that 25 carries a game going to just one guy just isn't healthy. In a perfect world, they would be paid like baseball relievers, that is to say, not a whole lot. Exploit the market inefficiency, go after the cheap options like Alfred Morris and Darren Sproles and Chris Ivory. This is the direction I want the Titans to start taking. Unfortunately, this type of system kind of spells death for a back like Chris Johnson who absolutely depends on getting the ball a lot to hit that one play that breaks the game open. However, a guy like CJ could still be worked into the rotation as a catcher of screen passes (he's looked better in the receiving game this year) and on runs from shotgun, where he's looked much better as opposed to under center.
To get this plan rolling, the Titans need to start looking somewhere other than Jamie Harper and Javon Ringer. Neither of those guys are the answer. In fact, I'll take Ryan Grant 10/10 times over either of those two. I know he's not the same runner as he was after his injury, that's why Green Bay chose to go with Starks/Benson/Green over him, but if there's a point in the season that we want the team taking risks, it's early on. Speaking of risks, this is a move for which there basically is none. We're not calling him in to be a feature back, nor are we even calling him in to officially be a part of the team, we just want to see what he's got left in the tank. Assume he gets a deal, at this point you have to consider it'd be something pretty close to the lower end of the spectrum.
Here are the facts: the Tennessee Titans are the worst running team in football and it isn't particularly close. Thus far, I don't see any improvement up front, let it be known that this is definitely not purely a problem of who the back is. We keep asking for a back who can "consistently pick up the 3 or 4 yard gain", well last year Grant averaged 4.2 yards per carry behind a below average offensive line. Yes, I'm aware that the Tennessee offensive line is definitely a step below below average, but the fact remains that Grant picked up average yardage in a less than optimal situation. You can credit Aaron Rodgers and the passing game for opening things up if you like, but I see a guy who may have a shot at out-producing our backfield for peanuts. Look, the Lions, a team who has one back in Kevin Smith who has proven to be at least serviceable and another whom they spent a high draft pick on in Mikel Leshoure, and they're open to the possibility, they brought in both Grant and former Texans castoff Steve Slaton. Now, they're also struggling to move the ball on the ground a little bit, but 19th in the league is a far cry from 32nd.
Look, I'm not saying Ryan Grant, he of 559 yards, two touchdowns, and one ankle surgery, is the answer to our prayers to have a good rushing attack again, I'm saying it's a step in the right direction. If I may borrow another imperfect baseball analogy, look at what the Baltimore Orioles have accomplished this year with a "throw a bunch of crap at the walls and see what sticks" attitude. It may not be repeatable, but in football there's a much larger sense that that doesn't particularly matter, right now this team needs a player who can pick up 3 or 4 on any given carry and who will attack whatever minuscule hole is given to him. Grant is only 29 and two seasons removed from a Pro Bowl year, I seriously don't see the harm in at least working the guy out, even signing him to a small contract. The move wouldn't signify that Grant is a feature player, either, only that the Titans were using some progressive thinking and moving towards the RB stable idea. Things literally can't get worse for the run game right now, there need to be some changes made and this seems like a logical place to start.