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Pick any statistic to measure run game, struggling Titans still lack consistency on ground

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Ground it down to any statistic, and the Tennessee Titans haven't been able to run the ball well at all this season.

They are assured of finishing without a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time since 2005. They rank 28th in the NFL, averaging only 87 yards a game, and are 23rd averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Nobody has run for 100 yards in a single game with the season finale coming up Sunday against the Colts.

Perhaps worst of all, the Titans' three longest runs this season have come from a pair of quarterbacks and a wide receiver.

"Would we have like to have had some longer runs by a running back? Sure, you would, but we haven't," coach Ken Whisenhunt said Tuesday.

The Titans (2-13) certainly have not had the year they wanted offensively after cutting veteran Chris Johnson in April. They're using a handful of running backs to replace the man who ran for at least 1,000 yards in each of his six seasons in Tennessee.

Before he arrived, LenDale White ran for 1,110 yards in 2007, while Travis Henry ran for 1,211 yards in 2006.

Having a 1,000-yard rusher doesn't guarantee a team can run the ball well. Whisenhunt said he was on teams that went to the Super Bowl without a 1,000-yard rusher.

"Some of it's an injury thing," Whisenhunt said. "Some of it's just where your team is. We do want to run the ball better, no question about that."

The biggest measure of how well a team can run comes when the defense knows it's coming. The Titans have failed there as well, with the best example a fourth-and-1 against Cleveland on Oct. 5 when the Browns stuffed Charlie Whitehurst.

They have topped 100 yards rushing in only three games this season.

Rookie Bishop Sankey has the fourth-longest run for the Titans at 22 yards, but the second-round draft pick out of Washington has rushed for only 551 yards on 148 carries with two touchdowns.

"It's one of those things we've worked on all year. We've wanted more explosive runs all year from our running backs," Sankey said. "Unfortunately, those haven't come."

Shonn Greene had the best game by a Titans running back this season with a season-high 71 yards in their opening win at Kansas City. Sankey has run for as much as 61 in two games. Leon Washington is averaging a team-high 5 yards per carry but has had only 11 rushes all season.

The Titans will have to decide about bringing Greene back for the third year of his contract and whether Sankey can be their main running back in 2015. Rookie Antonio Andrews also may get a chance at more work against the Colts as the Titans gauge their run game.

Whisenhunt said success running depends on how the games go. Scoring a lot of points early can allow a team to run the ball and wear out a defense. The Titans simply haven't been as consistent running.

"A lot of times your scheme, how you attack opponents, are important," Whisenhunt said. "A lot of times backs, you see guys make guys miss all the time and get extra yards. I think it all ties in together.

NOTES: The Titans practiced Tuesday with only LT Taylor Lewan (left ankle) not working. Rookie QB Zach Mettenberger was at practice, but Whisenhunt said Whitehurst will start Sunday.


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