With solid veterans still available on the market, should the Tennessee Titans kick the tired on veteran running backs?
I know your gut reaction to this is going to be that this is stupid, but hear me out. While I think an improved offensive line, Jalston Fowler's presence, defenses needing to account for Marcus Mariota's speed, and David Cobb will all add to the Tennessee Titans effectiveness in the running game, there is no guarantee that it will ultimately improve.
In a year where Marcus Mariota needs to be protected as much as possible, the old adage goes that the running game is a quarterbacks best friend. Well in that line of thinking, maybe it doesn't make a ton of sense to enter the year without a running back who has really proven that he knows how to play on all three downs.
Now, I am not talking about bringing Chris Johnson back so that he can pocket the Tennessee Titans money and then pretend to be putting forth effort. I am talking about bringing in a veteran player who can come in and (until the younger guys learn how to) pass block and help Marcus Mariota in crucial situations.
The ideal candidate for this is Pierre Thomas. According to a recent NFL article, it would be crazy for a team without a proven third down running back not to sign him:
"Only six backs had more catches last season than Thomas, who hauled in 45 balls after a 77-reception campaign in 2013. Per Pro Football Focus, only two runners -- Le'Veon Bell and Eddie Lacy -- graded higher last season catching the ball. One of the finest screen-pass targets of his time, the former Saint would fit on a team looking for help on passing downs. "
So let me get this straight. For Marcus Mariota, a quarterback whose system in college had a lot of success because of backs being able to catch the ball on screens and when linebackers are out of position, how does this not make sense? Bring him in and let him be Mariota's security blanket in 2015 with no long term promises. If the rookies catch on then the worst case scenario is that he sits on the bench and the Tennessee Titans have four capable running backs on the roster.
Another player who might fit a similar role is Ahmad Bradshaw. Here is what Marc Sessler had to say in that same piece from earlier about Bradshaw:
"Set to serve a one-game ban to start the year, Bradshaw was recently cleared from the fractured fibula he suffered in Week 11. He's constantly hurt, but remains effective on passing downs and has averaged at least 4.5 yards per tote in seven of his eight NFL seasons."
That is a pretty good career average, and he is also effective on passing downs. Injury concerns shouldn't be an issue since the Titans don't need him to play more than 10-15 downs per game.
No matter what, the Tennessee Titans need to find a way to add a veteran to the position at least as a stop gap until they are completely comfortable leaving the players they have now on the field to protect and aid the franchise quarterback.