Titans sign Tony Pollard for their new-look offense

The Tennessee Titans have signed former Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard.

As this year’s free agency got underway, Tennessee was looking to strengthen its roster in not least a trio of areas. From the outset, these included filling the gap left by the Baltimore-bound Derrick Henry, building around sophomore quarterback Will Levis and strengthening their defense which was inconsistent last season.

With the procurement of Pollard, the Titans can begin to address these first two areas ahead of this year’s NFL Draft in Detroit. But filling the gap left by the departing Henry doesn’t necessarily equate to requiring a like-for-like replacement, but instead utilising another skillset to develop a new offensive system in Nashville.

A surprise move

As the legal tampering period of free agency commenced, one of the very first announcements to be broken via social media was that Pollard, a 2022 Pro Bowler, would be heading east. Pollard’s signing – revealed before Henry’s actual and eventual signing with the Ravens – caught many off guard.

Although it was common knowledge that Henry would be moving on from Tennessee, the surprise announcement confirmed it further. Whilst King Henry is well-wished by the vast majority of the Titans community it doesn’t make his departure any less painful for them.

Perchance it was through this prism of anguish that (possibly unreasonable) comparisons were initially made between the incoming and outgoing RBs, particularly when attempting to analyse details of Pollard’s newly inked contract before it was fully public.

Of course, any major line-up or personnel change in a team is always going to be subjected to intense scrutiny. This occasion was no different, but in this instance the assessments aren’t as parallel given the wider context and shifting mindset within the franchise.

Granted, Henry’s decision to explore pastures new was decided long before free agency and Tennessee had the finances to make a suitably healthy offer if that’s what both sides had indeed wanted. With Brian Callahan replacing Mike Vrabel as Head Coach back in January, Pollard’s hiring is therefore further indication that change is afoot in the Titans camp. Vrabel’s firing and Callahan’s appointment is already giving way to a new outlook. With Callahan’s philosophy focussing on the passing game, Pollard hasn’t been brought in to directly replicate Henry or his game.

Put simply, the Titans weren’t necessarily looking for someone to take over The King’s throne, but instead someone who can play a role in constructing their new empire.

When the 2024 season kicks off in September, the Titans will adopt a new offensive style. It is within this newly implemented and more flexible system in which two-time All-AAC Pollard could prove to be a difference-maker.

Homecoming for Pollard

Pollard himself is a Tennessee native, having been born in Memphis and having played for the Memphis Tigers. He himself grew up a Titans fan. Selected in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by Dallas in 2019, and later franchise-tagged last Spring, Pollard moves to Tennessee after five campaigns with the Cowboys.

During his time in Texas, Pollard clocked up 3,621 rushing yards and a total of 29 touchdowns. In 2022, he posted three receiving touchdowns and 371 yards from 39 receptions. That effort, and the release of fellow RB Ezekiel Elliott, landed him the starting RB gig last season.

His 2023 seasonal figures may not quite exhibit what was first projected in his step-up as starter, but his performance undoubtedly improved as the season progressed and as he continued to shake off an injury from earlier in that year.

Suiting up for the Titans, the 26-year-old brings with him a physicality, an explosiveness and the ability to catch. What’s more, as well as being able to carry the ball, Pollard offers invaluable pass protection.

It’s no coincidence General Manager Ran Carthon has sought a running back able to get into position and block. Pollard’s ability to do so will offer indispensable protection for Levis. In doing so, he’ll help craft a greater level of dynamism in the backfield and help fulfil Callahan’s vision for the Titans to focus more on passing the ball.

“TNT” in Tennessee

Pollard is anticipated to share the workload with fellow RB Tyjae Spears who enters his second season. Spears showed a host of promise in his rookie season, ultimately playing only five fewer snaps than Henry and recording three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving).

The former Tulane Green Wave player will be looking to make a greater impact this coming season, adding a much-needed level of unpredictability as he functions in tandem with Pollard. This unpredictability will not only be in terms of when the ball is run, but also by whom, giving Tennessee a classic one-two punch combo from the back.

Moving forward, this newly embodied duo will ensure the Titans ground game can be more adaptable than it has been in recent years. That Titans fans have already dubbed the pairing of Tony and Tyjae as ‘TNT’ is evidence even several months out from their opening fixture that things will look and feel different offensively in Nashville this season.

Alongside Pollard, the Titans have also scooped WR Calvin Ridley in free agency to complement DeAndre Hopkins. They’re widely expected to take an Offensive Tackle in this year’s draft (Joe Alt or Olu Fashanu) and have signed Lloyd Cushenberry from the Broncos as their new Center. Through this rebuild, Levis is being provided with the weapons and tools he needs on his way to becoming a franchise quarterback and taking the organisation forward.

It’s an exciting time for Tennessee and whilst nobody (at least outside of their own fanbase) is implying the dawn of a new dynasty just yet, it’s clear the Titans are looking to a new future following the departure of their King.

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