After 93 Percent Derrick Henry, Mystery and Niches to Come with New Titans' RB Combo

ORLANDO – Once the Titans jumped to sign Tony Pollard as a free agent, the Titans had a pair of pretty similar running backs.

Pollard’s averaged 4.8 yards a carry in five seasons while Tyjae Spears got 4.5 as a rookie. Both are modern backs, capable pass catchers and pass blockers.

Nov 23, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard (20) and Washington Commanders defensive end Casey Toohill (95) in action during the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Commanders at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Tony Pollard/ © Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

“Obviously, you pair up Tony Pollard and Tyjae Spears together, it’s a pretty formidable one-two punch,” Brian Callahan said at the NFL annual meeting. “Two guys who can both score touchdowns, have got some explosiveness and make-you-miss in their game and can catch the ball out of the backfield and can protect. So we have two guys that are sort of interchangeable. Both with a little bit different skill sets that really add something unique to the offense.”

But something has to divide the two backs in terms of snap and carry distribution at some point, doesn’t it?

“We’ll find out,” Callahan said. “As I see it right now they are both pretty interchangeable. But I do think there will be some definition of role as we get going, as you get the pads on and start playing. Those guys will probably separate themselves in some role or another that they really kind of sink their teeth into. As of right now, I see them as pretty interchangeable. We’ll find out more as we go.”

That's obviously a lot different than things have been for a long time, when short-yardage and goal-line carries were going to Derrick Henry almost without questions. Also almost every carry in almost every situation -- 93.2 percent of the regular season carries from 2019 through 2023 if we take out the eight games he missed in 2021 after suffering a Jones fracture in Indianapolis.

Henry endorsed the Titans' new backfield plan after they signed Pollard and as he signed with Baltimore.

DeAndre Hopkins is excited that he’s now going to be paired with Calvin Ridley.

But for both receivers, two pass-catching running backs can also help loosen things up.

“Pollard and Spears are two great running backs – you really can’t put them in one box,” Hopkins said. “So it’s going to be unique to see. I think it does a lot, not just for the pass game but for the offense in general. Tyjae, that’s my little brother and I actually work out with Pollard in Dallas. 

Just being in the gym and seeing the work that he puts in every day, two years removed from a (broken fibula) surgery, surgery, I can tell that he is going to have one of his better years this year for sure.”

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