The Tennessee Titans had the 25th-ranked rushing offense in 2015. They ran for only 1,485 yards as a team, a number Adrian Peterson matched by himself. The Titans’ leading rusher was Antonio Andrews, who tallied 520 yards. The next best? Quarterback Marcus Mariota, who had 252.
The Titans had a difficult time moving the ball on offense as a result of their stagnant rushing attack, so they made a serious effort to improve in that area. Tennessee traded for DeMarco Murray in the offseason and drafted Heisman winner Derrick Henry, giving them one of the NFL’s biggest backfields.
The two additions bode well for the "exotic smashmouth" style of football head coach Mike Mularkey is instituting this season. And if it works as planned, Mariota will be happy to give his big backs the ball more often than not.
"That’s a lot of talent and a lot of excitement," Mariota said, via the Daily Press. "Now it’s on our shoulders to bring that together, build a chemistry for the season and hopefully lead to some wins.
"I told Coach Mike that I’ll hand the ball off 40 times a game if we win games. That’s what’s important to me, giving us an opportunity to win. Having those two workhorses back there should help us out."
Having Murray and Henry will certainly help the offense in a big way, as Mariota mentioned. But they’ll also take pressure off of the second-year quarterback. Without a consistent running game and a lack of receivers at his disposal in 2015, Mariota had to force the issue, which led to some unwarranted throws.
Of course, running the ball 40 times a game isn’t exactly doable, given the way the league has evolved. Only eight teams in NFL history have averaged more than 40 attempts, the most recent in 1984 when the Bears ran the ball 674 times. The Titans aren’t going to surpass that number, but it’s clear that they will run the ball early and often in 2016.