Titans’ run game not up to standard Tennessee set in 2016

FILe - At left, in an Aug. 27, 2017, file photo, Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs against the Chicago Bears in the second half of an NFL football preseason game, in Nashville, Tenn. At right, also in an Aug. 27, 2017, file phto, Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs against the Chicago Bears in Nashville, Tenn. Mike Mularkey has made it clear Tennessee is a run-first team. Well, the Titans need to pick it up with Pro Bowl running back DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry after a sluggish debut this season when they visit the Jaguars. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans have work to do on their running game after a disappointing start.

The Titans ran only 21 times in a season-opening 26-16 loss to Oakland , though that’s not the number offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie worries about. He also wasn’t happy with managing only 95 yards.

”That’s below our standards,” Robiskie said Thursday. ”That’s part of the game. Sometimes you go out and run … for 140, 150. You break a long one. Again, I think this past weekend our average is way below what we’d like it to be yards per and at the end of the day total amount.”

The Titans have high expectations for their rushing offense as part of the ”exotic smash mouth” approach coach Mike Mularkey wants combined with their production in 2016. The Titans ranked third in the NFL in rushing last season averaging 136.7 yards per game and fourth behind only Dallas, Buffalo and New England with 476 total rushes, according to Sportradar.

DeMarco Murray earned a Pro Bowl nod for leading the AFC with 1,287 yards rushing .

Against Oakland in the season opener, the Titans wound up throwing almost twice as many times as they ran (41 passes to 21 rushes) with quarterback Marcus Mariota keeping the ball on three carries. Murray was stopped for a 1-yard loss on third-and-2 from the Oakland 7 late in the third quarter with a chance to take the lead trailing 16-10.

Murray finished with only 12 carries for 44 yards. Robiskie said the number of rushing attempts wasn’t the issue for Murray, noting the running back had 12 carries in a win at Detroit last season with a 67-yard run while finishing with 89 yards in that game.

Asked if he wants more than 12 carries, Murray said Thursday that a win matters most. He said the Titans can be more patient and finish their offensive drives. But yes, running is important.

”That’s our offense,” Murray said. ”Our identity is to be physical. It starts up front with the offensive line, and it starts with me as a running back. So I think for us no matter what the situation is we want to give ourselves a chance to run the ball and take some pressure off Delanie (Walker) and Rishard (Matthews) and Marcus (Mariota) and go from there.”

The Titans will be tested Sunday when they visit Jacksonville (1-0). The Jaguars limited Houston to 23 carries for 93 yards.

Murray has run very well against the Jaguars with the exception of Dec. 24 when he was held to 42 yards on 14 carries. In his first two games, Murray ran for 100 yards while with the Cowboys in 2014 and 123 in a Titans’ rout of the Jaguars in the rivals’ first game last season. He and Derrick Henry combined for 37 rushes in 36-22 win Oct. 27 .

”They’ve done some big time damage to us in the past, so we have a lot of respect for them,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said.

Mularkey isn’t worried about the running numbers from one game. He said the Titans know what their identity is.

”We’re not getting off of it,” Mularkey said, ”I ain’t changing.”

Notes: DT Jurrell Casey (lower back) did not practice for a second straight day but is expected to practice Friday. CB Tye Smith (hand) and S Johnathan Cyprien (hamstring) also did not practice.

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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker