McNichols making the most of opportunity with Titans

Tennessee Titans running back Jeremy McNichols has played for four different teams in his first four years in the National Football League.

Having played in just seven games during his pro career, McNichols has already played in each of the Titans’ first four games this season, contributing 11 carries for 35 yards. He finally appears to have found a niche in Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith’s system.

Rookie Darrynton Evans, who was supposed to be the Titans’ change-of-pace backup to Derrick Henry, was placed on short-term injured reserve with a hamstring injury following Tuesday night in Tennessee’s 42-16 win over the Buffalo Bills. Luckily for Tennessee, McNichols came on strong in the fourth quarter against Buffalo and showed why he might deserve a larger role in the team’s offense moving forward.

In limited action, McNichols had outplayed Evans to this point, earning a 60.5 grade from Pro Football Focus versus Evans' 52.3. Beyond simply running the ball against Buffalo (he had nine carries for 28 yards), McNichols won over the Titans coaching staff in pass protection.

“I would say that Jeremy is one of those players that’s taken advantage of his opportunities,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “I love his toughness and he’s a player that puts the team first. He’s prepared and ready to go in there. A lot of our success in (the Buffalo) game was due to Jeremy and his ability to protect on third down and protect in the passing game when they blitzed.”

The 24-year-old, who saw the bulk of his playing time on third down, picked up several key blocks on Bills blitzers and allowed quarterback Ryan Tannehill more time in the pocket, contributing to the Titans' pass protection surrendering zero sacks to a Buffalo defense that had 10 through four games entering Tuesday.

McNichols played on 26 of Tennessee’s 66 offensive snaps on Tuesday (39 percent). With Evans out for at least three more game — and practice squad tailback D’Onta Foreman not likely to see the field much — expect to see offensive coordinator Arthur Smith involve McNichols on more of a regular basis.

Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_