The Titans didn’t wait long to add reinforcements after Derrick Henry suffered a foot injury in the Titans’ 34-31 Week 8 win over the Colts. They knew they needed a proven back around with only Jeremy McNichols remaining among the healthy backs on the team’s roster.
That’s why Adrian Peterson joined the team so quickly. Just hours after news of Henry’s injury broke, reports circulated that the Titans were working out Peterson as a potential replacement option. Tennesee came away from his workout impressed. As such, they agreed to a practice squad deal with him in short order.
Obviously, Henry’s injury is the main reason that the Titans signed Peterson. They are one of the AFC’s best teams, after all, and if they’re going to make a postseason run, they’ll need to get production out of their RBs without Henry. That would have been hard to do without a proven veteran in the fold, so Peterson fits from that standpoint.
But what are the other reasons that the Titans signed Peterson? And how do they plan to use him? Here are the answers to those two key questions.
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Why did the Titans sign Adrian Peterson?
There were multiple reasons the Titans signed Peterson, but the No. 1 factor in the decision is that the team likes the running style of the wily veteran.
“He’s always run extremely hard, I think he’s been decisive,” Vrabel said of Peterson’s first practice session on Wednesday, per the Nashville Tennessean. “He’s strong with the football. We’ll see where he’s at this week and work towards the end of the week and see who’s going to end up helping us.”
Running backs coach Tony Dews agreed with Vrabel’s sentiment. He also noted that Peterson had been extremely productive throughout his career and hopes that the 36-year-old back can replicate some of his recent performance with Tennessee.
“He’s been a great player throughout his career, and will be a Hall of Famer one day,” Dews said, per Titans.com. “My job is to get him up to speed, and whatever he can do to help the team win, that is my job to figure that out and help him along the way. He’ll go out and do what he does best. He’s an ultimate pro, and he’s done it a long time. We’ll just get out on the field and see what we can do.”
Another bonus about the decision to sign Peterson: the players appear to be excited that he’s around. Ryan Tannehill called Peterson a “huge addition” and said his career so far had been “unbelievable.” He also thinks that Peterson’s playing style compares favorably to that of Henry.
“I remember watching him back at Oklahoma and then obviously his whole career in the league has been spectacular,” Tannehill said, per Titans.com. “A guy who has a ton of experience, who likes to run physical kind of like Derrick [Henry] does, and he is [definitely] going to be helpful.”
Essentially, Peterson has the traits that the Titans are looking for in a running back. So, signing the 6-1, 220-pound back was a no-brainer.
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How Titans will use Adrian Peterson
It seems like the Titans are going to use a committee approach in their backfield with Henry out. Dews was mum on the offense’s plans for Peterson and simply implied that he needed to be ready for anything.
“I can’t answer those questions until we get out on the field,” Dews said. “Whatever role that is, whether it’s carry the ball 15 times, 20 times, or carry it one time, or don’t play. … I don’t know what that will be until we get out there and practice and find out what we’ve got.”
Jeremy McNichols, D’Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard are the other players available for the Titans. McNichols is the Titans’ second-leading receiver on the season, he figures to get most of the receiving work while Peterson gets more between-the-tackles opportunities.
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Regardless of the rotation, the Titans have just a few goals for Peterson after his signing, as Vrabel explained,
“Go as hard as you can, take care of the football, try to learn the details of the play, play with great effort and don’t do dumb stuff to hurt the team.”
That shouldn’t be a problem for Peterson, whether he’s getting a lot of touches or just being plugged into the lineup on a rotational basis.