NASHVILLE – Derrick Henry put the Titans on his back during the second half of the 2018 season.
A pair of Hall of Fame running backs believe riding Henry should be the team’s plan heading into 2019 as well.
“Derrick is a power back with great speed and really good feet, and I think he has shown glimpses that he can be a full-time guy in this league,” NFL great LaDainian Tomlinson said of Henry. “Now I think they should just let him have it. It’s his show now. There’s nothing wrong with having a guy come in and spell him – a guy playing on third downs. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I think they need to give (Henry) 300 carries if he can handle it.”
So, can Henry handle it? Henry had 215 carries in 2018 after 176 carries in 2017, and 110 on 2016.
“Are you kidding me?,” Tomlinson said of the 6-foot-3, 247-pound Henry. “Back in the day we had 300 carries coming out of bed. So Derrick Henry should be able to handle that.”
The Titans kick off the 2019 season on Sunday in Cleveland.
In five games in the month of December 2018, Henry carried the ball 97 times for 625 yards and eight touchdowns. Henry set a franchise record with 238 yards in a game vs. the Jaguars, and he piled up 170 yards a week later in a win over the Giants. His 625 yards were the most by any NFL player in any calendar month this season. Henry was named the AFC's Offensive Player of the Month for December.
Henry finished with 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns, with a 4.9-yard average, in 2018.
“You saw the way he started to run,’’ former NFL running back Terrell Davis said of Henry. “Early in the season it wasn’t there for him. And toward the end of the year he had the big games -- the game against Jacksonville was incredible. If you need to have a run game established, you need to give him some carries. He has proven he can carry the load. He’s kind of a throwback – a guy you want to give him the ball in the high 20s is what I am thinking. And he gets stronger as the game goes on.”
Davis, who ran for 7,607 yards during his playing career with the Broncos, believes the Titans will need to be more creative of offense this fall to help Henry find success.
Tomlinson, who racked up 13,864 yards in his career, agreed.
“You just can’t line up at this level and just pound people like you are at Alabama,” Davis said. “It sounds great, and you need to get the ball to him more, but you have to create things where he is not working so hard and if they stop him then everything else is stagnant, and that’s kind of what I saw from Tennessee last year.”
Former NFL running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who spent most of his career with the Jaguars, watched Henry play high school ball just outside of Jacksonville.
He thought he was special then, and feels he’s capable of changing Tennessee’s offense. In his final season at Alabama, Henry carried the ball 395 times for 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Davis, Tomlinson and Jones-Drew are all analysts for NFL Network. All three made their comments to Titans Online following the 2018 season when asked how the Titans should handle Henry moving forward.
“They need to continue to utilize him running downhill,” Jones-Drew said of the Titans, and Henry. “All this side to side, him running outside zone, it doesn’t really work well and fit what he is able to do because he is such a big back. It is hard for him to stop and start. If you can get him running, we call it power crunch, which is downhill in the A gap, and he can bounce and read. …
“How do you help a quarterback out? It’s by running the football, play-action passing, mass protection and those kinds of things. You want to make sure you utilize someone like Derrick Henry to the best of their ability.”
Titans Online looks back at RB Derrick Henry's 2018 season, in which he rushed for a career-high 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns. (AP Photos)