Now that things are clearing up as far as the Titans running back group with the jettison of Chris Johnson, I thought it apt to take a look at why last year's group struggled, and how the new regime is looking to right the ship and get the ground game, and consequently, the entire offense, back on track.
Why the team struggled in 2013
The Titans had enjoyed, and the fans spoiled, with the stellar play of veteran tackles David Stewart and Michael Roos, as well as the intensity of former Center Kevin Mawae and co, all of which spurred Tennessee's ground game forward. The group has undergone a rash of changes since that time, with a rotating door at guard in 2012, and then three new additions on the interior in 2013, four if you are counting Rob Turner.
Turner was a problem off the bat for the ground game in 2013. While he was an excellent leader and locker room guy, his struggles have been well-documented, and he would likely have never started had rookie Brian Schwenke been ready to go.
The result of these new adds, regardless of quality, was a disconnect. While this isn't a very valid excuse later on in a season, the lack of cohesion was notable, especially early on. Throwing in Schwenke midseason, despite him being the best center on the roster, threw another wrench in the works.
Coupled with CJ's lack of vision (after careful review of film study), the running game was ineffective in 2013. It did little to keep the offense "on time", or take the heat off of Jake Locker and Ryan Fitzpatrick. The early injury to Shonn Greene didn't help things either.
Outlook for 2014
So how do things look for 2014? The offensive line remains relatively the same. With Brian Schwenke and Chance Warmack now having a year under their belts, coupled with the veteran savvy of Andy Levitre and Michael Roos, the Titans ground game should get a kick-start. The only question is at Right Tackle with new addition Michael Oher manning the spot. It's his job to lose with Byron Stingily in the wings.
But who's going to be carrying the rock?
Shonn Greene missed a great chunk of last season through injury, which was somewhat of an outlier for what has been a durable, dependable back thus far in his NFL career. That said, his production was steady, and on pace for similar totals he posted in 2011 and 2012 should he have gotten the carries. While he's no speed demon, he presents a physical option to pound away the short yards, and provide a change of pace from more laterally-oriented runners.
"We are not at our number that we'd carry into training camp...So we are going to look at (that)"
This is what Ken Whisenhunt had to say about the running back situation. He also said definitely that the Titans, as expected, won't be taking one in the first round. However, he has gone on record to say that he wants to add an "all-around back". Ka'deem Carey, Tre Mason, Charles Sims fit that mold nicely, and Terrence West has also visited with the team.
I think for 2014 the team should see a boost in the running game, even with CJ's exodus. If the Titans can add a reliable back to pair with Greene and Dexter McCluster, they should be sitting pretty and getting back to Titan football. Taking the pressure off of Jake Locker and the new passing offense would be a huge bonus along the way.