Derrick Henry is a throwback. He might just be the most unique player that I’ve ever seen at the running back position. 6-3, 250 pounds — and he can run right by you for the homerun or stiff arm you into the third row.
He makes the Tennessee offense tick, forcing defenses to bring a safety down and freeing things up for Ryan Tannehill down the field. However, you’ve got to wonder, how long can he last? It’s a fair question considering the cliff that running backs typically fall off of around 30 years old. Henry will be 27 this season, entering his sixth season in the league.
He’s handled 300+ carries in each of the last two seasons for the Titans, running for over 3,500 yards in that span. As a junior at Alabama, Henry ran the ball 395 times on his way to the Heisman. All of that usage will eventually catch up to him, but as Eddie George explained to Jim Wyatt at TitansOnline, Henry is in a unique spot to shoulder the load.
“Here’s the thing, and people have to understand this: Derrick is not getting beat up like people think he is,” George said. “He’s getting the carries, the volume. But it is not nearly as violent as when I played, or when Terrell Davis played. Derrick has two receivers who had right at 1,000 yards each, and he had a quarterback who threw for nearly 4,000 yards. So that being said, there is a great deal of balance, and all the pressure is not on him to make all the plays and be the entire offense. There’s a difference. He can now run the ball and do it very well because he has space to do it, and with his talent and ability and agility, he is lethal in that combination.
“So, I don’t buy into the theory that he is getting the hell beat out of him by looking at all the carries he has. It is the quality of carries, and he is not getting bludgeoned, he is not getting beat up in between the tackles. With that being said, now it’s just about him showing a level of consistent moving forward. But it’s not one of those situations where I expect him to slow down.”
It’s an interesting point from Eddie, who knows a little something about the wear and tear of the running back position. The game certainly isn’t as violent as it was, as football as a whole has cracked down on shots to the head and leading with the crown of the helmet. To his second point, the Titans absolutely have had balance, which is what makes the entire offense tick. Keying in on Derrick leads to deep shots to A.J. Brown, and lethal play-action from Ryan Tannehill.
Does all of that keep him around for several more years? That remains to be seen. Henry is special because of his ability to wear down a defense and hit homeruns late. He doesn’t wear down, he actually seems to peak in the fourth quarter.
The Titans will be faced with change this season, most notably the potential losses of Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith. Keeping weapons in place for the passing game is a big key to all of this, so it’s going to be interesting to see what Jon Robinson does to keep this offense moving forward. But one thing is for sure — at least for the next couple of seasons, Henry will be the focal point.