Saturday night was nothing short of a spectacular debut for Derrick Henry and the entire rushing attack. The 2015 Heisman winner picked up right where he left off during his time at Alabama, carrying the ball down the field exclusively on the first drive of the second quarter. He had the look of a guy that was ready to be the workhorse.
First things first, let's applaud DeMarco Murray. He was every bit as good as Henry was on the night, perhaps even better. He busted off a 71 yard touchdown run, thanks to some great blocking by Harry Douglas and Dorial Green-Beckham. Murray looked like a different guy against the Chargers, showing vision, patience and lateral agility. He is the guy right now, but it's clear Derrick Henry isn't that far behind.
Let's take a look at all of Derrick Henry's runs up close. Note: it's pre-season, so no coaches film makes it a little tougher to see what's going on in between the tackles. I'll give it my best shot anyways.
Carry #1: This looks like a simple power run that is designed to go in between the pulling Warmack and the tight end, but Henry wisely chooses to bounce. Craig Stevens (I think) does a nice job of keeping #97 engaged, which allows Henry to turn the corner. Andre Johnson does just enough to keep the corner out of Henry's way, creating an alley for the 2015 Heisman winner. On his very first live carry, we see what makes Henry so dynamic. His vision, decision making and deceptive ability to plant and go made this play work.
Carry #2: Everyone does their job here, but Jalston Fowler makes this run happen. Hopefully we see more of this during the season, because it was a thing of beauty here. The line takes care of what is in front of them and Fowler takes care of the linebacker trying to seal the edge. Look how quickly Henry eats up yardage after he puts his foot in the ground.
Carry #3: The blocking on this run was beautiful -- Warmack took the 1-tech DT for a ride down the line of scrimmage, Spain pulled and took care of the crashing edge while Fasano pulled through and got the inside linebacker. Henry had a huge hole and burst into the open field. This run gets interesting when Henry takes on two defensive backs. He goes to a juke-spin combo and eludes both of them. Henry makes contact with Ben Jones and stumbles for another five yards. If Ben Jones doesn't make contact, Henry probably scores on this play with the right angle.
Carry #4: This is power football. The Titans go with Fasano, Supernaw and Stevens all on the left side of the formation. Henry once again bounces outside. This time he sees the defensive back taking away his outside lane, so he changes direction again -- in a flash. I'm not sure what defenders are supposed to do with this. Again -- his vision, decisive cuts and pure athleticism are on display here.
Carry #5: This was the lone bad rep that occured while Henry was in the game. Taylor Lewan gets caught napping and gives up immediate penetration off the edge. Henry has no chance. It happens.
Carry #6: Take a look at McBride and Supernaw. They both immediately head to the flats, pulling two defensive backs out wide and clearing out the middle. Meanwhile, Cassel sends Henry up the gut. The Titans are able to create an alley here, but can't get to the inside linebacker in time who eventually ends up making the play. I would have really liked to have seen a one on one with the free safety and Henry meeting head on. I love how aggressive Henry is getting to and through the offensive line. Zero hesitation.
Carry #7: Nothing groundbreaking here -- just a draw play on third down as time ticks away in the half. However, we do see some of Henry's balance here as he avoids a defensive back.
I think you have to be encouraged as a Titans fan after watching this one. How many years have we watched Tennessee struggle to run the ball? It's been a long time since there has been a sustained rushing attack in Nashville. The work isn't done by any means, but this is an extremely positive step. Running the football will help just about every single aspect of this team. They'll get a much stiffer test on Saturday as they take on the defending NFC Champions, the Carolina Panthers.