The Titans have had one of the most lopsided running back rotations in the league the last three seasons. Derrick Henry led the NFL in carries, rushing yards and rushing TDs in 2019 and 2020 and was on pace to do it again in 2021.
But now, he’s hurt. He is dealing with a broken bone in his right foot that will likely end his season.
Henry has handled 219 carries this season for the Titans. Other running backs that have played for Tennessee have just 11 on the season. He has accounted for nearly 80 percent of the Titans’ rushing yards this season and has vastly outgained other backs on the roster.
The question now is, who will step up and replace Henry? They have some internal options, but the top one — 2020 third-round pick Darrynton Evans — landed on IR for a second time before Sunday’s game and is out for the season as a result.
The team could also add a player from outside the organization via free agency or trade ahead of the NFL’s trade deadline on Tuesday, Nov. 2. They are already planning on working out former MVP Adrian Peterson, so perhaps he will join the fray.
Here’s a look at what the Titans have at the running back position with Henry’s season likely over.
Titans RB depth chart
1. Jeremy McNichols
McNichols is the only healthy running back on the Titans’ 53-man roster in wake of Henry’s injury. The team was carrying two backs on the roster and two on the practice squad after placing Evans on IR. With Henry likely to join him, McNichols will top the Tennessee depth chart for now and should continue to serve as a top receiver out of the backfield.
Henry played about 71 percent of the Titans’ snaps before his injury. McNichols, a fifth-year pro, ranks second among the team’s running backs and has played just over 25 percent of the snaps. He has carried the ball seven times for 38 yards and has a career yards per carry average of 4.4.
That said, McNichols’ biggest role figures to be as a receiver out of the backfield. He has caught 21 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown this season. That’s good for the second-most receiving yards on the Titans and that includes an eight-catch, 74-yard outing against the Jets in Week 4.
The 5-9, 205-pound back certainly isn’t the same between the tackles weapon as Henry, but he should give the Titans a more potent receiving option out of the backfield.
2. Dontrell Hilliard
Hilliard signed with the Titans on Oct. 27. He was originally added to the practice squad for additional depth in wake of Evans’ injury. Now, he may be the team’s backup with Henry set to be out indefinitely.
Hilliard (5-11, 202 pounds) came into the NFL in 2018 as a free agent out of Tulane. The Browns employed him as a backup and return man during his nearly three-year stint in Cleveland. In 30 games with the Browns, Hilliard racked up 97 yards rushing and two TDs on 22 carries. He caught 22 passes for 199 yards as well.
For the Titans, Hilliard represents a backup with years of NFL experience and a bit of in-game action. That may gives him the edge over the team’s other practice squad option, even if Hilliard is the more recent signee.
3. Mekhi Sargent
Sargent made the Titans’ 53-man roster to start the season as an undrafted free agent out of Iowa. He is 5-8, 208 pounds and racked up 1,740 rushing yards and 20 TDs over three seasons with the Hawkeyes.
While he made the initial 53-man roster, Sargent played in just two games and logged two offensive snaps for the Titans. He totaled four yards on two carries in that span and was waived on Oct. 23 before being re-signed to the practice squad.
Sargent may get an opportunity to play some for the Titans moving forward, but given that they elevated the recently-signed Hilliard ahead of him for the team’s Week 8 game against the Colts, it seems that he is slightly behind in the race for the No. 2 spot — though it may not be by much.
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4. Khari Blasingame
Blasingame is a fullback for the Titans and has been with the team since the midpoint of the 2019 season when he was signed off the Vikings’ practice squad. He played running back at Vanderbilt but has bulked up into a 6-0, 233-pound blocker during his pro career.
Blasingame has never logged a carry in 27 career games, but he is the biggest remaining back that the Titans have. As such, he could see an occasional short-yardage carry out of the I-formation. He has eight catches for 93 yards in his career as well, so don’t be surprised if you hear him get the ball on occasion with the Titans looking to replace nearly 30 touches per game.
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