Next up in our series of Tennessee Titans positional analyses is the running back position.
Smash and Dash reigned supreme in 2008, as Chris Johnson and LenDale White combined to give the Titans one of the league’s most dynamic duos at RB.
In 2009, will Chris Johnson continue to develop into one of the game’s best runners, or will he experience a sophomore slump? Will a trimmer LenDale White blossom during his contract year?
I’ll take a look at these questions and more regarding the team’s running backs, after the jump.
The backs formerly known as Smash and Dash
They may no longer go by the moniker of Smash and Dash, but I’m expecting Chris Johnson and LenDale White to continue to be a formidable RB tandem in ’09.
CJ, a.k.a. Every Coaches’ Dream, was every defensive coordinator’s nightmare in ’08. His blazing speed provided the Titans with a true threat to take it to the house on any given play. For a man of his stature, Johnson also proved to be more than capable of mixing it up between the tackles.
Barring injury, I’m expecting anything but a sophomore slump for CJ. With the team’s commitment to getting him the ball even more in ’09, Johnson could make a legitimate run for the league’s offensive MVP trophy.
As for the slimmer White, it’s going to be tough for him to emerge from CJ’s shadow if the team is really serious about getting #28 more touches. LenDale may be facing the reality of having to accomplish more with less opportunity in ’09, which may hinder his ability to emerge as one of the team’s breakout players this year.
The Invisible Man
Selected in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft, Chris Henry has failed to realize his potential in a Tennessee Titan uniform.
With Smash and Dash stealing his thunder, Henry’s probably going to have to venture elsewhere if he expects to jumpstart his career. As a result of the team’s crowded backfield, Henry’s opportunity to play in another NFL city may arrive as soon as next month, due to his status as a prime candidate to become one of the team’s training camp casualties.
After seeing his first season in the NFL go down the drain as a result of a serious knee injury, a healthy Rafael Little is ready to compete for a roster spot in ’09.
As I mentioned in an article a few months ago, I haven’t seen too much of Little. However, based on the observations of others, Rafael’s ability to run, catch the football and return punts/kicks could be a very intriguing addition to the Titans’ roster.
I’m definitely going to be keeping my eyes on him as training camp unfolds later this month.
The rest of the pack
Quinton Ganther is the kind of guy you root for to make it in the NFL. An unheralded seventh rounder out of the University of Utah in 2006, Ganther is a player who continues to work hard and improve each year.
There may not be a lot of touches available for Q in the backfield, but his versatility and work ethic should allow him to continue to be a part of this team in ’09.
Rookie Javon Ringer is a workhorse type of back who was extremely productive during his college days as a Spartan. He’s a tough guy who will run hard between the tackles.
With the possibility of LenDale White going elsewhere as an unrestriced free agent in 2010 (if a new CBA is signed) Ringer could become the long-term solution as Chris Johnson’s sidekick in the Titans’ running game.
Undrafted free agent Rodney Ferguson is a big guy (6’0, 234 lbs) who will be facing an uphill battle to make a squad that is so rich in RB depth.
Best-case scenario: He earns a spot on the team’s practice squad in ’09. Worst-case scenario: He’s toting the rock for one of the UFL teams this fall.
Your turn, guys. What are your thoughts on the running back position heading into this season?