The Tennessee Titans passed their first post-Derrick-Henry test with flying colors by defeating the Los Angeles Rams in impressive fashion at SoFi Stadium on Sunday to the tune of 28-16. Tennessee heavily relied on a strong defensive performance that included two interceptions, including a pick-six score by superstar safety Kevin Byard, and an astounding five quarterback sacks.
Tennessee was forced to debut a new-look rushing attack in the wake of Henry's absence, one that featured a timeshare between future Canton-bound running back Adrian Peterson, third-down specialist Jeremy McNichols, and veteran journeyman D'Onta Foreman.
The 36-year-old Peterson was, expectedly, the first ball-carrier to be given an opportunity to establish himself as Tennessee's new lead back. Peterson looked like a runner that's been out of the game for nearly 12 months and totaled just 21 rushing yards on a team-high 10 attempts. Peterson found the end zone late but rarely looked like a player capable of handling a full workload going forward. Peterson will almost surely take a step forward in the weeks to come as he continues to acclimate to Tennessee's offensive scheme and work his way back into playing shape.
Reliable third-down back McNichols followed Peterson by carrying the ball seven times for 24 yards. It was a minor surprise to see McNichols utilized as a between-the-tackles runner given that he's routinely employed for his pass-catching abilities and prowess in pass protection. McNichols did little with his newfound opportunities and should not see an increase in usage as a pure runner.
That brings us to Foreman, who was third in the pecking order but easily served as Tennessee's most effective ball-carrier. Foreman carried the ball on just five occasions, but turned his limited showcase into an impressive 29 yards. Foreman's 5.1 yards per carry easily bested McNichols' pedestrian 3.4 average and Peterson's 2.1 yards per carry. Analyzing beyond the stat sheet, it was clear to see that Foreman ran the ball with great decisiveness and had more juice and physicality than his counterparts.
If the Titans' staff intends to use last Sunday as a measuring stick, then Foreman will almost certainly shoulder a heavier workload against a difficult New Orleans Saints opponent in Week 10. Head coach Mike Vrabel recently discussed the possibility.
"He didn't do anything to diminish his role," Vrabel said, when asked about Foreman trailing both Peterson and McNichols for the team lead in carries. "We need to help him on offense and get him more opportunities. We'll give all three running backs more opportunities."
Tennessee will continue to navigate through a new-look backfield, and the process remains fluid and ever-changing. Vrabel won't give up on Peterson. His reputation and resume speak for themselves, and the future Hall of Famer has earned the right to work through his struggles in the contests ahead. But Foreman was their best running back on Sunday by a considerable margin, and should see closer to 10-12 touches against a stout Saints defense on Sunday.