Right Now, Titans Pushing The Envelope With Tyjae Spears In Backfield

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Roughly 20 minutes after the first practice of Titans’ minicamp finished, when several players had talked with media coming off the field and Derrick Henry’s more formal session at the podium was already underway, Tyjae Spears was still catching machine-thrown passes.

Tyjae Spears
Tyjae Spears in college/ Courtesy of Tulane athletics

The rookie running back, a third-round pick out of Tulane, arrived highly touted for his versatility and ability to add a different dimension to the Titans’ backfield.

Through the team’s offseason offensive installation, Mike Vrabel said the run game has been more exotic and expansive. in a way where all it’s been doing won’t ultimately be part of what its does in games after the Titans get a look at things and pull back to what they like and think fits and works best.

“You’re just trying to figure out what’s best for you and what you can add and what’s too much,” Vrabel said. “Tyjae had worked hard to learn multiple spots, to learn different places where Tim (Kelly) and the offense has him lined up. Things just happen quicker when you are on 11-on-11 and getting into the routes quicker whenever he’s out of the backfield or lined up. I think those things are something with younger players, how quickly the ball has to come out or how quickly you have to become available because of the pass rush and the time that you have to throw the football.

Does Vrabel envision the Titans ultimately having more of that kind of stuff in their offense?

“I think it was always let’s push the envelope and let's see what else we can do knowing that probably all of it won’t stick or all of it won’t probably apply each and every week but it’s giving our defense a good opportunity to see some different schemes. I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to run 18 and 19 – stretch and cut – but I think that (we’re) trying to just figure out what else we can add and what else we can get good at, and who can help us at different positions in different personnel groups.”

Spears said he catches balls after practice until he gets tired. Tuesday that was 100-plus.

When he turned away from the machine and found me waiting for him, he said he hoped I had not recorded his drops and laughed. I told him I had gotten some, but also some very good stretches. Here’s the finish.

He said he’s good at flushing the bad stuff, just like he does with the good stuff.

“Whatever they need me at, I’m going to do just about whatever,” he said before correcting himself. “Not just about whatever -- whatever… I can just about do anything confidently. I’m good with everything.”

Both Sean Murphy-Bunting and Azeez Al-Shaair said he’s a tough cover.

“Having running backs that are versatile enough to run different routes and do different things, it just makes things so much harder on the defense,” Murphy Bunting said. “(Spears) is very versatile, very skillful, very quick with a nice juke in him, a nice little step. I mess around with him a lot when I am chasing him down on those runs he has and he always hits me with a cutback. I think he’s very dynamic with what he does running the ball and receiving it.”

“I think he’s a really good route-runner, it’s part of why we (brought)  him in here,” Al-Shaair said. “And we’ve been going at it. I’ve been messing with him since the first day that we’ve been going against each other. I think he’s going to be a real good player.”

Dontrell Hilliard led the Titans with four receiving touchdowns last year and has some nice periods of production. 

I sure hope the team’s No. 2 running back is not its most productive scoring pass catcher. But I am very curious to see the different ways he may be deployed and with what sort of frequency.

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