After struggling out of the gate early in the preseason, Tennessee Titans running back Bishop Sankey is set to begin the season as the No. 2 running back behind Shonn Greene, via ESPN.com, signaling a bigger fantasy impact for him in his rookie season.
He finished the preseason with 155 yards rushing on 42 carries with one touchdown. His best showing came against the Minnesota Vikings in the preseason finale where he ran the ball seven times for 43 yards.
Tennessee head coach Ken Whisenhunt was pleased with what he saw from Sankey in the preseason, telling the media last Friday, via TitansOnline.com:
He’s gotten better, obviously, at his exchanges with the quarterbacks. His course on his footwork has improved. His vision is good. He’s seeing the holes well. His protection, he’s done a nicer job with that as he’s gone through it, so from a young guy that you’re trying to get prepared to contribute during the season, you’ve seen growth, you’ve seen him moving along with that, and that’s what you needed to see. I’m happy with him.
After releasing Chris Johnson this offseason, the Titans made Sankey the first running back taken in the 2014 draft when they selected him in the second round with the 54th overall pick.
In two seasons as the starter at Washington, Sankey rushed for 3,309 yards and 36 touchdowns on 616 carries and hauled in 61 passes for 553 yards and one touchdown through the air.
He gives the team a quick, nimble-footed running back with great vision and awareness, all things the bruising Greene lacks.
Despite two 1,000-yard rushing seasons for the New York Jets in 2011 and 2012, Greene looked like a shell of his former self last season, rushing for just 295 yards on 77 carries with four touchdowns in 11 games.
Greene currently sits atop the depth chart at running back, but after an injury scare against the New Orleans Saints in the second preseason game, there is always a possibility the injury could linger, opening up more opportunities for Sankey in Whisenhunt's running back-heavy offense.
Last season as the offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers, Whisenhunt's offense finished sixth in the league in rushing attempts with 486 carries, most of which were split between starter Ryan Matthews (285) and backup Danny Woodhead (106).
If Whisenhunt decides to run his offense in a similar fashion this season—regardless of whether or not Sankey takes over Greene's spot atop the depth chart—he has the chance to see 100-plus carries and should be a focal point in the passing game.
In Whisenhunt's offense last season in San Diego, Woodhead, along with gaining 429 yards on 106 carries, caught 76 passes for 605 yards and six touchdowns.
The Titans did sign former Kansas City Chiefs running back Dexter McCluster this offseason with the belief he could fill the Woodhead role in Whisenhunt's offense, but he was lackluster in the preseason, rushing the ball just three times for seven yards and hauling in just three catches for 26 yards.
With Greene returning from a knee injury and McCluster not showing much in the preseason, Sankey has a chance to slip into the role that Woodhead perfected last season in San Diego, and he should have a much bigger fantasy impact this season than initially expected.