NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — DeMarco Murray feels good after a much lighter workload than he prefers last season in Philadelphia, and now the NFL's 2014 rushing leader also has the fresh start he wanted along with a new contract in Tennessee.
"I didn't get as much work as would have hoped to," Murray said Thursday when asked about last year at a news conference. "I feel fresh and I feel good, but not because of my choice."
After signing a five-year, $40 million contract last March, Murray ran 193 times for 702 yards under coach Chip Kelly — a big drop from his 1,845 yards with Dallas in 2014. With Kelly fired before the last game, the Eagles traded away Murray to the Titans simply for the price of swapping fourth-round picks in April's draft.
For the Titans, this is the first big move by new general manager Jon Robinson to rebuild a franchise that has gone 5-27 the past two seasons and hasn't reached the playoffs since 2008.
The Titans also confirmed deals for Texans center Ben Jones, Miami wide receiver Rishard Matthews and veteran quarterback Matt Cassel. The Titans hold the No. 1 draft selection. Robinson said the Titans also are scheduling some visits as free agency moves past the first 24 hours.
"Today is just a start of the change that's coming here for this football team," Robinson said.
The process of adding the NFL's offensive player of the year in 2014 started at the NFL combine. Robinson said they researched Murray and credited the running back with studying up on the Titans too. Murray said he even talked with Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis to learn about coach Mike Mularkey, Bettis' offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh between 2001-03.
Murray also looked at how Mularkey used Michael Turner in Atlanta and running backs coach Sylvester Croom's track record. Murray said he likes what the Titans have offensively with quarterback Marcus Mariota, veteran tight end Delanie Walker and receiver Dorial Green-Beckham.
"I think this offense is definitely fit for myself," Murray said.
The Titans have not had a running back run for 100 yards or more in a game since Chris Johnson in the final game of the 2013 season, and they released Johnson in April 2014 to avoid the final three years of his contract. The Titans ranked 25th in the NFL last season, running for 92.8 yards per game. Mularkey has made it very clear he wants the Titans to run the ball much better this season, which will help quarterback Marcus Mariota as well.
Murray was asked to run more out of the shotgun formation in Philadelphia rather than deeper behind the line with the quarterback under center. Mularkey said he ran the offense Dallas used with Murray while offensive coordinator in Miami in 2006. The Titans coach said he took some pieces of that scheme for the offense he's running now, so Murray should have a head start in learning Tennessee's playbook.
Mularkey also said Mariota will be under center more than working out of the shotgun, and now the Titans have a tailback in Murray to go with fullback Jalston Fowler.
"It's going to be that smashmouth," Mularkey said. "You can talk all you want about that."
Robinson said Jones, who has started 43 games of 64 games played with Houston, will primarily work at center. The Titans started three different centers in 2014, and Robinson said he has been impressed since talking to Jones at the combine when the lineman was coming out of Georgia.
Jones, 6-foot-3 and 308 pounds, started at right and left guard in Houston, and he started 16 games at center for the Texans last season. He signed his multi-year deal Thursday and said he brings an attitude with him.
"I got to bring something to the table," Jones said. "I'm not the biggest or the tallest guy, most athletic but by golly you're going to have to whip my tail every play.
Cassel, 33, will compete with Zach Mettenberger to back up Mariota. Mularkey said Cassel brings experience with over 80 starts. Mettenberger, a sixth-round draft pick out of LSU in 2013, is 0-10 as a starter.