New-age football and the analytics used to dictate the flow of the game these days would suggest that running the ball is a thing of the past.
The Return Of The Crush
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry is a straight contradiction to that theory. His 182 rushing yards in a 33-30 win over Russell Wilson and the high-flying Seahawks on Sunday proved his value as a runner once again. He put up 147 of those yards came in the second half to wear Seattle down and seal the deal.
Now in his sixth NFL season, Henry is still one of the most exciting running backs in the league. He’s big, fast, bruising and elusive all in one package. Henry is the only human being on earth to rush for 2,000 yards in high school, college and the pros.
His 2,000-yard 2020 season was just the eighth in league history and first since 2012 when “Purple Jesus” Adrian Peterson accomplished this feat.
You heard the King! 👑 @KingHenry_2 pic.twitter.com/ChvWIlSOjt
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) September 20, 2021
Henry arrived from Alabama as a 2016 second-round draft pick after winning the 2015 Heisman Trophy and leading the Crimson Tide to the 2016 National Championship.
Many believe he fell in the draft because his style of ground and pound isn’t something seen or valued much in today’s NFL, where teams spread it out — sometimes with an empty backfield — toss it around and use the entire field. Teams no longer “play in a phone booth.”
The Titans obviously thought Henry had talent, as they used the 45th overall pick on him, but not even they can say with a straight face that they believed he’d ascend to this type of dominance.
The Titans brought “King Henry” off the bench at first as the team allowed him to develop at his pace before throwing him into the fold. Despite not starting but four games over his first two seasons, Henry still managed 1,200 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.
The potential for a record-breaking season was there from the jump.
As the 2018 season began, the job was all his in “Music City,” and Henry didn’t disappoint. The former Alabama running back was becoming an up-and-coming star right before our eyes posting 1,059 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns.
The most impressive part of Henry’s package was his home run ability. He’s no lumbering back despite his enormous size.
Henry led the league in long rushes, which is rather surprising for a guy who goes 6 feet 3 and 240 pounds.
Derrick Henry did all this for 8 yards on 9 carries at halftime of week 1 lmao pic.twitter.com/rQA8MeDQe6
— jw (@jwmedia12) September 12, 2021
2019 was no different as Henry continued to blossom with over 1,500 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. His ride to superstardom coincided with the Titans becoming one of the league’s surprising teams.
He followed that season up with another star-making effort in 2020, where he eclipsed the 2,000 yard mark and 17 rushing touchdowns. Point blank, Henry has passed the cusp of greatness.
After a subpar effort from the entire Titans team in a 38-13 opening day loss to the Cardinals, Henry and his club responded with a big come-from-behind win at raucous Seattle.
Henry totaled 237 yards (182 rushing and 55 receiving), to go along with three touchdowns, including a 60-yard scamper where he showed his unreal speed for his size and power.
DERRICK HENRY GOES 60 YARDS FOR THE TD ⚔️
— ESPN (@espn) September 19, 2021
Henry Fits Titans System
It doesn’t hurt having an old school coach like Mike Vrabel who believes in pounding the football and using play action off his running game.
Truth be told, Henry is the main reason the Titans moved on from 2015 No. 2 overall pick Marcus Mariota in favor of 2012 No. 8 overall pick Ryan Tannehill, whose strength is throwing off of play action.
The league hasn’t seen this type of ground-and-pound back since the days of Jerome Bettis, John Riggins and Earl Campbell. Physically imposing backs who always seem to lean forward for the extra yard. Those aforementioned three are all Pro Football Hall of Famers, and two are Super Bowl champions.
If Henry continues on his current trajectory he will be Canton-bound as well. There’s no other back even getting the opportunity to do what Henry does.
The new offensive schemes don’t provide the looks or the touches for a bruiser. And few if any physical runners have the breakaway ability of Henry.
The big guy is single-handedly keeping the running back position alive and necessary in today’s NFL.