Rookie Darrynton Evans off injured reserve, finally running for Titans
The backup took a few steps forward, something the Titans have been looking forward to.
Rookie running back Darrynton Evans exceeded his career rushing yards total during in a 46-25 victory against the Lions on Sunday, running eight times for 30 yards. His 27 receiving yards on two catches also exceeded his career rushing yards total of 21.
Evans, a third-round pick out of Appalachian State, also contributed on special teams, returning two kickoffs for 45 yards.
"It felt good to actually be able to contribute," Evans said. "It's been a long year, but at the same time, it paid off."
The timing couldn't have come at a better time as the AFC South-leading Titans (10-4) play at the Packers (11-3) on Sunday (7:20 p.m., NBC).
As for Evans, being an insurance policy for NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry might not have much glamor attached to it. But it can't hurt.
Just having Evans, who has been hampered by hamstring ailments most of the season, on the field represents a glimmer of hope for a 2020 draft class that has otherwise been mostly absent for the Titans.
"It was just exciting really for his first real action," coach Mike Vrabel said. "He hasn't done a whole lot. It was big for his confidence and his mental self. It was important for him to show the football team that he was willing to stick it up in there. And he ran it when everybody knew we were going to run it, and that that's even more impressive. The way that he helped us finish out that game there in the four-minute, picked up some huge first downs."
That is more than Vrabel or the Titans can say for others the team drafted.
First-round pick Isaiah Wilson's troubles have been well documented — from his arrest on a DUI charge to his suspension for violating team rules to twice being placed on the COVID-19/reserve list. He's played three snaps.
Second-round pick Kristian Fulton, who was suspended for a year in college for tampering with a drug test, has played in just five games because of a knee injury.
Fifth-rounder Larrell Murchison has four tackles in nine games. Seventh-rounder Cole McDonald was waived in August. Seventh-rounder Chris Jackson has appeared in 10 games, with three starts, and has 24 tackles.
Titans report card:High grades across the board for a decisive victory against the Lions
Evans, the man who enjoys solving Rubik's Cubes and played high school ball with 49ers running back Raheem Mostert, Buccaneers safety D'Cota Dixon and Washington linebacker Cole Holcomb, has a chance to start making a name for himself now.
The man who handed him the ball Sunday, and who threw him what turned out to be his first NFL touchdown reception – "I'm just glad I caught it," Evans said.
Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, shared in Evans' excitement.
"He brought some juice," Tannehill said. "Excited to see him. The first play he made was on that kickoff. He hit that thing, made some miss and got some extra yards, and obviously when he was able to get in as a running back, made some big plays. Great job catching the screen signal with it, got tipped. Guys got downfield.
"Some of the runs he had where he was able to keep his balance and keep gaining yards. Then he had some tough grabs inside. So, really happy for him. He's out there and making plays for us. He's going to help us moving forward."
Reach Paul Skrbina at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @PaulSkrbina.