Two games ago, LenDale White had not yet rushed for 100 yards in a game as a pro, and was still wearing the dreaded “potential” tag as a guy whose production had not yet matched his skills and draft position.
Now, just two weeks later, White is coming off back-to-back 100-yard games, rushing for 104 yards at Houston, then following that up with a 133-yard effort last Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
So what is different for the former Southern Cal star, who now has 513 yards for the season on 139 carries?
“Nothing, nothing at all,” insists the second-round pick from 2006. “It’s the same stuff we’re running. Maybe I’m just a little bit more comfortable in the offense. That’s about it. Nothing major has changed. It’s the same plays we called three or four weeks ago that we’re calling now.”
The one thing that is different for White is that he is taking on more of the running back load by himself. With Chris Brown out for the past two-and-a-half weeks with a high ankle sprain, the Titans have handed White the ball more often than they did prior to Brown going down.
Before Brown went down in the second quarter of the Tampa Bay game, White had not had more than 18 carries in any of the five games and was averaging 3.1 yards per carry. Since then, he has had 77 carries in the past three games, and his average has improved to 3.7 yards per rush for the season.
“I think LenDale has realized that he’s the guy that’s got to carry the load right now,” center Kevin Mawae said. “With Chris Brown being out, our go-to guy has got to be him. Chris Henry is just kind of coming into his own right now, and when Chris Brown got hurt, Henry had to come in and step up, but I would bet he knew that we can’t count on a guy that’s never played before and LenDale’s done a great job.
“He’s stepped up, he’s starting running the ball hard, and he’s made some tough yardage and now he’s got two consecutive weeks of 100-yard games. Hopefully, we can make it three.”
White admits that the extra responsibility and workload have been good for him. After all, he even split time in college, dividing reps with Reggie Bush at Southern California.
“I knew with Chris Brown being down, we’ve still got Chris Henry and Quinton [Ganther], but I knew that they were probably going to throw me in the fire a lot more,” White said. “The Tampa Bay game, when he went down, I knew I was the only running back up, so I had to step up and just fight. But I love being in that situation, and as long as Chris is still down, I’m probably going to be in that situation, so I need to step up and help the team win.”
Henry has done well in spot duty with 57 and 48 yards, but has just 15 carries in two games, whereas Brown was averaging 13 carries a game in the first four games. White has become the Titans’ workhorse back of late.
“I’m more comfortable than I have been the last couple of weeks. They’re feeding me the ball and I’m just getting in the groove,” White said. “The offensive line is doing a tremendous job of clearing the holes out. All I’ve got to do is run through it.”
Titans coach Jeff Fisher, long an advocate of the running game, is pleased with what White has done, especially of late.
“When the running game is working appropriately, your threes and fours in the first half become sevens, eights and 10s in the second half. That’s what’s happened the last couple of weeks,” Fisher said.
Something White and the Titans hope will continue Sunday against Carolina and beyond as he continues to trade potential for production.