Tennessee Titans running back Julius Chestnut defied the odds when he made the team’s 53-man roster last August. A rookie undrafted ball-carrier out of little-known Sacred Heart, Chestnut was one of four running backs the Titans initially opted to keep last season (it was five if you count fullback Tory Carter). Fast forward a calendar year later and Chestnut, a Bowie, Maryland native, continues to write the Titans’ most heartwarming story.
Chestnut has arguably been the Titans’ most impressive offensive player through two preseason contests. While much of the focus has centered around a plethora of receivers who are battling for a roster spot, it’s Chestnut that’s stolen the spotlight. Chestnut leads all Titans playmakers in offensive yards from scrimmage with 144. The passing game has taken a back seat despite an ongoing quarterback battle between Malik Willis and Will Levis for the No. 2 QB job.
Against the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday, Chestnut rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown via 13 carries. Chestnut added a second touchdown via a one-yard reception to his offensive totals. The highlight of Chestnut’s night was a 55-yard gain that helped lead to a 7.5 yard per carry average.
For the second consecutive offseason, Chestnut did not enter training camp as a favorite to make the Titans’ 53-man roster. Superstar running back Derrick Henry is still present, and Titans general manager Ran Carthon drafted former Tulane standout Tyjae Spears with a third-round selection. But for the second straight season, Chestnut has positioned himself to earn a role on the Titans offense.
Second-year rusher Hassan Haskins got himself into legal trouble and hasn’t impressed as a running back in training camp practices. The coaching staff is high on Jonathan Ward, who once appeared likelier to make the 53-man roster than Chestnut did. But Ward suffered an unfortunate injury against the Chicago Bears that’s prevented him from making an ongoing case for himself. Chestnut is now the favorite to open the regular season as the team’s No. 3 running back behind Henry and Spears.
Haskins is one of Tennessee’s most productive special-teams players and may still qualify for the 53-man roster. But if the Titans choose to retain Haskins, which would be an unpopular decision, it won’t come at Chestnut’s expense. Haskins is essentially viewed as a third-phase-of-the-game player.
Chestnut rushed for 106 yards over three preseason contests last year. He earned a spot on Tennessee’s initial 53-man roster before eventually being waived and re-signed to the practice squad. Chestnut made his NFL regular-season debut against the Philadelphia Eagles in December. Chestnut became just the second Sacred Heart alumni to appear in an NFL regular season game.
What a block by Julius Chestnut pic.twitter.com/e002y6ObJ1— Justin Graver (@titansfilmroom) August 20, 2023
He’s now repeating those efforts.
Chestnut continues to battle. He’ll receive one final opportunity in the third and final preseason game against the New England Patriots to solidify his positioning on the final roster. We wouldn’t bet against Chestnut.