Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Titans coach Brian Callahan ‘really excited’ about what Tony Pollard, Tyjae Spears can bring as pass-catchers

Over the last several years, the Tennessee Titans have been a run-focused team. When you have Derrick Henry in the backfield, it makes sense to construct your offense around him. And when you have a pass-catching group that is more adequate than exemplary, it makes even more sense. So, that’s what the Titans under Mike Vrabel largely did.

Things are clearly going to be different under new head coach Brian Callahan. Callahan comes to Tennessee from Cincinnati, where he helped lead the Bengals‘ Joe Burrow-led offense. Before that, he worked in pass-happy offenses led by Peyton Manning in Denver and Matthew Stafford in Detroit. Plus, the Titans added Calvin Ridley and Tyler Boyd this offseason to a wide receiver room that already included DeAndre Hopkins.

They want to throw the ball. And that’s why Callahan is also excited about what his team’s two running backs — second-year man Tyjae Spears and free-agent acquisition Tony Pollard — can bring in the passing game.

“Any time we can find ways to match those guys up in the passing game on linebackers, it’s a huge benefit for us; they’re hard to cover,” Callahan said, via Coachspeak Index. “They can run routes like receivers, which is unique. I’ve not seen guys like them very often, and we have two of them … I’m really excited about what those guys can bring to our offense.”

Both Spears and Pollard have been significant parts of their teams’ passing offenses. As a rookie, Spears was targeted by Titans QBs on 23.1% of his routes, according to Tru Media, the eighth-highest rate among the 66 running backs who ran 100 routes or more in 2023. He checked in 16th among that same group of players in yards per route run.

Coming off a broken leg that ended his 2022 season, Pollard’s role in the passing game took a step backward last year. But in his previous four years in Dallas, he was targeted on at least 20% of his routes in each season, peaking at 27.5% in 2021. He ranked third that season in yards per route run, then checked in 10th in 2022. He has the ability to be an impact player out of the backfield.

Titans offensive coordinator Nick Holz said earlier this offseason that the team liked that Spears and Pollard have similar skill sets, because it will allow them to be interchangeable in the backfield and therefore less predictable. The ability to contribute in the passing game is a big part of that, as it will now be less obvious if the Titans are going to run or throw based on which back is lined up behind or next to the quarterback. And if they can make plays in space, that’s all the better.

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