TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: RUNNING BACKS
In camp (6): RB Derrick Henry, RB Tyjae Spears, RB Hassan Haskins, RB Julius Chestnut, RB Jonathan Ward, RB Chuck McClelland.
Offseason developments: After training in Dallas during the early portion of the offseason, Henry spent most of the offseason in Nashville, taking part in OTAs and the minicamp. Henry said he wanted to get up to speed in OC Tim Kelly’s offense, and he took advantage of the opportunities. The Titans drafted Spears in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft, and the rookie had an impressive offseason. McClelland was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati after the NFL Draft, and he joined the likes of Haskins, Chestnut and Ward in workouts. Meanwhile, the Titans hired Justin Outten as Run Game Coordinator/Running Backs coach after Tony Dews shifted to tight ends coach. Dontrell Hilliard and Trenton Cannon have not been re-signed, and they remain free agents.
In the spotlight: Henry. It seems like Henry is always in the spotlight. That’s what happens when you’re a workhorse running back on a team that loves to run the football. Henry, now 29, will once again face questions heading into the season about whether he can keep it going, or how much the offense might lean on him in 2023. Henry is a self-motivated player always looking to do as much as he can to help the team, so you can be sure he’ll be ready to do his part when the season kicks off on September 10 in New Orleans.
Battle to watch: Haskins vs Chesnut vs Ward. Henry and Spears figure to be the one-two punch out of the backfield in 2023, but more spots are available. Haskins, a fourth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, is a sturdy back who can be physical on special teams, something coaches like. But we can’t ignore the fact an off-field incident is now attached to his name. I liked the looks of Ward in the offseason, and certainly remember his big play in Jacksonville late in the Week 17 game. Chestnut has a year of experience under his belt, and he benefited from last year’s journey. I suspect the team will keep two of the three from this group.
Keep an eye on: Spears. The versatile Spears faced all kinds of questions following the draft about his health, but after he took part in OTAs and minicamp, those faded into the background. Spears was among the team’s offseason standouts, as he displayed the shiftiness and speed that made him such an electrifying player in college at Tulane. The Titans will give Spears opportunities in training camp and in preseason games. It should provide fans a glimpse of things to come during the regular season.