Tennessee Titans RB Darrynton Evans can do a lot more than just carry the ball well, his college position coach explained.
“He can affect the game in different ways,” said Garrett Riley, Evans’ RB coach at Appalachian State. “It’s kind of like a basketball player. If you can’t always score, the great players find ways to still affect the game and contribute, whether it’s a defensive assist or rebounds, whatever.
“He’s kind of the same way just in a football player. He can find different ways to affect the game.”
That versatility, along with Evans’ intelligence and character, could make him the perfect complement to the Titans’ starting tailback, Derrick Henry. Riley explained why in an interview with A to Z Sports.
Providing Some Variety
Vrabel: We’re going to give Evans as much as he can handle.
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) April 25, 2020
Though Evans and Henry are both highly-explosive runners, their physical makeups and playing styles are total opposites.
Henry towers at 6-foot-3-inches and 238 pounds, while Evans only hits the 5-foot-10-inch mark on the measuring stick and weighs 203 pounds. Henry is a powerful runner whose long stride makes him nearly impossible to tackle in the open field, while Evans relies on his lateral agility to make defenders miss in the open field.
Having a No. 2 running back with such a different skill set than the No. 1 can give the Titans something they haven’t had in a while in the backfield: variety.
“From the coach’s perspective, you just have some variety,” Riley said. “Like, at receiver, you have fast, twitchy guys, and you have longer, deep-ball threat guys who can make jump ball catches. It’s kind of the same thing in the running back room.
“It’s nice to have a little versatility and variety within the room because it creates more of what you can do offensively, and you’re not as limited. For me, as a coach, that’s what I think about when you look at those positions—you don’t want to always just have the same type of guy.”
Learning in the Meeting Room
Mike Vrabel: Darrynton Evans was a guy everyone in the #Titans building liked what he could do in conversation and on the white board.
Can be a change of pace. Will give him as much as he can handle.
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) April 25, 2020
The Titans shouldn’t have to wait long for Evans to be able to contribute to their offense.
Evans isn’t the type of rookie that’s going to struggle to learn an NFL playbook or mentally adapt to the next level. Because of his intelligence, the transition should be quick.
“He’s just an intelligent person, in general,” Riley said. “Sometimes, you have some smart people who aren’t just great football guys, where you have to tell them something over and over again, even though they’re smart people.
“He’s a guy that’s smart off the field, and he’s a person on the field that’s special because you can tell him something one time, or you can show him a look one time in the meeting room, and he’s going to remember.”
Character Off of the Field
Titans general manager Jon Robinson has consistently prioritized acquiring players who will positively contribute to the team’s locker room culture in addition to its on-field success.
Evans certainly fits that mold. He didn’t let the fact that he was the best player on his college team affect his desires to stay engaged, learn and lead, Riley said.
“He’s a guy who was always really early to every single meeting,” Riley said.
“When you’re on a team or and you know you’re the best player on the team, sometimes it can be a little difficult to maybe do some of those things, but it never was for him. He’s a guy that was always there. He was eager.
“He even made me accountable as a coach, which was great. I think that just kind of pushed everybody.”
Not having a capable second running back really hurt the Titans in 2019. If Evans proves to be everything Riley thinks he can be, their offense will reach new heights in 2020.
Cover image: Jeremy Brevard & Jim Brown / USA Today