For most of Derrick Henry’s career as a Tennessee Titan, he has operated alone in terms of carrying the load in the rushing game.
Early in his career, he was a caddie to DeMarco Murray, but since 2018, Henry has been the bell cow back for the Titans.
It hasn’t been for a lack of trying to find a complementary helper for Henry, as the Titans have gone through Dion Lewis, Jeremy McNichols, Darrynton Evans and Dontrell Hillard trying to find the right change-of-pace back to pair with Henry.
Now, it appears the Titans have found that man in rookie Tyjae Spears. Spears actually played more snaps than Henry in the season opener, but in their win over the Los Angeles Chargers, the Titans went back to their familiary formula of Henry getting the bulk of the carries (25 for 80 yards), while Spears proved to be a nice additive, picking up 49 yards on eight rushes.
Neither was much of a factor in the pass game Sunday, but didn’t need to be as the play-action game was working well enough for Ryan Tannehill to bounce back from a poor week one to throw for 246 yards and a TD, as he completed 20 of 24 passes.
“I just want them both to be productive,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said Monday. “We know that Derrick’s going to have to get his touches and Tyjae can clearly help us as well.”
The one-two punch in the running game also restored the needed balance to the offense, as the Titans had 34 called runs Sunday and 29 called pass plays. Against the Saints, Tennessee was in a rate 2 to 1 imbalance in favor of the pass.
“It’s all about getting into plays, and drives, and being able to allow some of those personnel groups to complement each other,” Vrabel said. “You go in with a package and just trying to continue to expand on some of those things, and getting guys the touches and the carries and the throws that they need and still trying to take care of the football in doing all that.
“I thought that there was a good flow. We were able to run the football. We worked some tempo. We hit a big play, we got on the ball, got a lot of our stuff run. I still think there can be a lot better execution and try to limit some of the mistakes.”
He also said he believes Spears can be capable of much more – if he gets the needed blocking from the offensive line.
“We’re going to block for him one day, I promise you. And he’s going to gain 30, 40, 50 yards. I’m not sure. Every time you think he’s going to get tackled, he burst through for another five or six yards. (Tyjae’s) got good vision, good balance, good play strength,” Vrabel said. “ … They both are going to help us. We got to make sure that we’re continuing to get both of those guys the ball.”
Vrabel would not confirm that guard Peter Skoronski had an appendectomy on Saturday after missing practice on Friday. He simply said the rookie had “a procedure” that kept him out of the game and could cost him a bit of time.
“He did have a procedure. We’ll keep you updated on when he’ll be back out there,” Vrabel said.
The coach added that safety Amani Hooker (concussion) and cornerback Kristian Fulton (hamstring) both could return to the practice field this week.
“We’ll see where they are heading into Wednesday. I would say hopeful at this point in time,” Vrabel said. “But just being Monday, Amani’s got to pass through the protocol and then we’ll see where Kristian’s at.”