Disaster has struck the Tennessee Titans.
From NFL Now: #Titans RB Derrick Henry will have foot surgery tomorrow morning and be out 6-10 weeks. Six would be quite fast, eight is more likely. Either way, Tennessee expects Henry back this season. pic.twitter.com/UzoJqNlcFF
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 1, 2021
Henry was on pace for 1,800+ yards this season and another All-Pro selection. This loss opens up a set of problems for the AFC-leading Titans.
Backup Jeremy McNichols has 38 yards rushing on the season. He’s not even the team’s second-leading rusher. That would be quarterback Ryan Tennehill …
The team did pull future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson off the scrap heap. Peterson, 36, is fifth on the all-time NFL rushing list with 14,820 career rushing yards. He’s just 449 yards behind Barry Sanders. AP is a shell of the back who returned from a career-threatening knee injury to win the 2012 MVP, but he’s in great shape and provides depth at a position that has become unexpectedly thin.
Derrick Henry Is A Modern-Day Throwback
Modern football has tried, pretty successfully, to devalue the running back position. There is compelling data that shows when looking at various factors including injury rate, offensive line play, and running success, that the once supremely important position may not be as valuable.
Henry flies in the face of that approach and “analytics.” He’s the best running back in the league and the center of the Titans’ offense. Teams come into games thinking how to stop him.
Henry leads the NFL with 237 touches, 72 more than second-place Najee Harris. The Titans are heliocentric and Henry is their sun.
BREAKING: Derrick Henry broke the 5th metatarsal in his foot
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) November 1, 2021
Without Henry things become more challenging for Tannehill and the passing game. There is no need to commit a spy. No need to stack the box with an extra defender. The fear of a home run threat in the backfield is gone, leaving the defense to lock in on the passing game.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel told reporters during Monday’s news conference that Henry would be undergoing surgery on his right foot Tuesday morning. The running back was placed on injured reserve, and although Vrabel said Monday there is no timeline for how long he’ll be out, Vrabel added that “absolutely there’s a chance” Henry could return to the field this season.
The fear going into Monday was that Henry has a Jones fracture.
A Jones fracture is a fracture of the bone on the pinky toe side of your foot, the fifth metatarsal bone. What makes this particular injury challenging is the limited blood flow to that part of the foot, and the numerous anatomical attachments reliant on that area.
#DerrickHenry injury update: This was the fear when I heard 5th metatarsal injury. Has to be surgically pinned to allow for healing bc it’s in a watershed area (limited blood flow) and numerous anatomical attachments which pull on that area. Looking at 6-8 weeks at least https://t.co/FvdEZl4BIh
— Dr. Rajpal Brar, DPT (@3cbPerformance) November 1, 2021
Henry was the 2020 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year and led the league last year with 378 carries for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was an outside MVP candidate this year leading the league in rushing, yards from scrimmage, all purpose yards, and touchdowns.
Now the Titans are left searching for answers.
Tennessee is atop the AFC for now at 6-2, though they are not likely to stay there with the Henry injury. The good news is they are three games up in their horrendous division, so they’ll make the playoffs. But any hopes of advancing are gone — unless he returns sooner than expected.
“There’s no player in the league that means more to his football team than Derrick Henry,” ESPN NFL analyst Rex Ryan said. “This is the biggest loss you can have. It takes them from being in the one or two best teams in the AFC. They ain’t going nowhere without him.”
The NFL’s trade deadline is today at 4 p.m. The Titans may be looking to add one more back to the mix.
But make no mistake. There is no replacing Derrick Henry.