NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Nearly every team has a preseason underdog emerge.
With the Titans, it’s Darius Reynaud. As a return man and running back playing after starters were out, he did impressive work in the Titans' first two preseason games.
This has generated four big questions:
Could the Titans keep four running backs?
Could the Titans create room for Reynaud by using No. 3 back Jamie Harper as a fullback once in a while, and not keep a fullback?
Could he beat out Javon Ringer, the incumbent No. 2 running back?
Could he unseat Marc Mariani as the team’s return man?
I doubt Reynaud unseats Ringer, though I’d have no issue with it. Titans coaches and brass seem to love Ringer.
I doubt they'll abandon fullback, though it’s such a narrow, situational role I’d have no complaint about leaning on a two-tight end package more often.
I doubt he takes Mariani’s job, though I wouldn’t argue against that either, as I think Mariani is a bit overrated. (Mike Munchak said this week that Reynaud has made it a legit competition.)
The four-running back scenario may be most likely, but to keep a fourth back that player will have to be able to contribute on special teams as a non-returner.
We’ll get a taste of whether Reynaud can do that Thursday night, when the Titans host the Cardinals at LP Field.
Special teams coach Alan Lowry said he will use Reynaud on the kickoff coverage and punt coverage teams against Arizona as the Titans get their first sampling of what Reynaud can do in that capacity.
“My sense is he can do whatever he wants,” Lowry said. “He’s a good football player. He’s got speed and strength. I hope we have enough plays; I don’t know.”
Reynaud was with the Vikings and Giants previously.
“Reynaud is interesting and I am not quite sure why he has never stuck anywhere,” said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. “He is kind of like a Percy Harvin Lite. He’s real good with the ball in his hands, a running back/receiver tweener type who also can be an effective returner.”
Reynaud is not worried about all these scenarios. He still has a good, positive attitude and knows he can play, and he’s just glad he's created them.
“My job is to make their job as hard as possible,” he said of the Titans' decision-makers.
He worked in the sort of jobs he’ll have tonight on special teams when he was with the Giants. As for the return man debate, Lowry said he thought a race between Mariani and Reynaud would be close and Reynaud agreed, though of course he said he’d win.
Who would Williamson start as his return man if these were his two choices?
“I would say that is a pretty good competition,” Williamson said. “Reynaud runs lower and with more power. He might be shiftier laterally too. But Mariani has really good vision, is quick to get upfield and probably is the faster of the two. Edge to Mariani, who is also more reliable.”