Jeremy McNichols might not be as big as Derrick Henry, but the 5-9, 205-pound back is still making waves for this explosive Titans offense this season.
McNichols actually started his football career while playing for Snoop Dogg in the Snoop Youth Football League when he was growing up in Southern California. He went on to attend Santa Margarita High School in California, where he compiled 173 carries for 877 yards and nine touchdowns. During his senior season playing for the Eagles, he earned first-team all-league, all-region, and all-state honors.
Ranked as a three-star recruit by ESPN, McNichols signed to play with Boise State in college. While playing for the Broncos, McNichols ranked second in the nation in total touchdowns, and third in rushing touchdowns. He also posted seven 100-yard games during his sophomore season and managed to set a Mountain West record while at Boise State for most consecutive games with a rushing touchdown (12). The prolific production earned him second-team All-Mountain West Honors two seasons in a row in 2015 and 2016.
After playing three seasons at Boise State, McNichols declared for the NFL Draft in 2017. He was picked up in the fifth round (162nd overall) by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs signed McNichols to a four-year, $2.66 million contract but ended up releasing him — as filmed by HBO’s Hard Knocks — at the end of his first training camp due to his inability to pick up Dirk Koetter’s offense and some questions about his maturity.
McNichols then bounced around the league a bit between the 49ers, the Colts, the Bears, once with the Titans in 2018, and then finally to the Jaguars before signing a one-year, $750,000 contract with the Tennessee Titans midway through training camp before the start of this season.
He was ultimately waived at the end of camp again, but signed back to the practice squad the next day. The Titans used the new NFL roster rules to call him up for gamedays in each of the first two weeks and then ultimately signed him back to the 53-man roster on September 23rd.
McNichols has seen action in all five games this season, primarily serving as a passing down back and occasionally getting the opportunity to spell Henry in the wake of rookie runner Darrynton Evans’ hamstring injury. McNichols’ 16 carries for 86 yards and 4 catches for 19 yards are all career highs, and his excellent work in pass protection has certainly endeared him to Ryan Tannehill.
In the Titans’ matchup with the Texans last week, McNichols had a few key plays that led to their 5th win of the season. McNichols recorded 51 yards on only 5 carries for the day, including a crucial 17-yard tote that led to Tennessee’s game winning touchdown in overtime, as well as a 20-yard run earlier in the game (another career high).
It was also the second straight week that he was on the field for 39% of the Titans offensive snaps, evidence of a growing role and trust from the coaching staff. This Sunday, the Titans face off with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the only other team in the AFC that is still undefeated. Pass protection will be as important as ever with T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree coming off the edges. With Evans still out, McNichols’ role will not diminish, and he will look to make some more big plays to keep the Titans undefeated and on top of the AFC.