The headlines about Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry and his career that published in the offseason and continued into the regular season were ominous.
- “Derrick Henry, Titans Are Destined to Disappoint in 2022”
- “The decline and fall of Derrick Henry”
- “If Tennessee Titans can’t get Derrick Henry going, a dreadful season awaits”
Reading this might convince anyone not in the Tennessee Titans organization that the NFL’s most dominant running back of the past decade was on his way down. Or possibly even out.
Checks statistics …
Henry is averaging 107.9 yards rushing per game. That leads the NFL.
Henry has seven rushing touchdowns. That’s third most.
Henry has 755 rushing yards. That’s also third most in the league.
Derrick Henry Wins Honor For October
Now checks email from NFL …
“Derrick Henry named AFC Offensive Player of the Month.”
“He’s making the right reads, he’s in the right place,” Titans running backs coach Tony Dews said Thursday. “And then it kind of all came together for him the other day.”
The “other day” Henry rushed for 219 yards against the Houston Texans. And, yes, that was the fourth consecutive time dating back to 2019 that Henry rushed for over two bills against Houston.
A skeptic might look at that statistic and point to how dreadful the Texans have been this season. And the last few seasons.
But the first three times Henry pulled off the feat he was fully healthy. He was on a proverbial roll.
That ended after eight games last season when Henry broke a bone in one of his feet and had to miss the season’s final nine games. He returned in time for the playoffs but managed only 62 yards on 20 carries for an underwhelming 3.1 yards per carry.
That’s where all the questions and predictions of doom come from.
Then October rolled around. And Henry rushed for 563 yards (140.8 per game) with five touchdowns in four games during the month. His 563 rushing yards are the most in the NFL since Week 4.
Just as impressive, this is the third offensive player of the month award for Henry, with the others coming in December of 2018 and October of 2020. So those came before his injury.
Henry, in other words, is producing as he did prior to last season’s injury. And he’s regained a level that has lifted him above quarterbacks or receivers or other playmakers in a passing league.
“Is it a passing league?” Henry asked playfully.
Running Game Carries Titans Offense
The truth is it’s not a passing league for the Titans. They’re a running team so every defensive coordinator focuses on containing Henry in order to stop the Titans.
But Henry is again doing what he did prior to his injury, which is gaining yards when the entire stadium knows he’s about to get the football.
“You got to have the mindset they know and then make something happen,” Henry said. “It’s all of us being tied in and locked in and executing our job and me trying to run hard and make a play out of the play that called. And everybody knows so you just got to go out there and do it.”
Henry doing it against the Texans was impressive on other levels because Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill missed the game with an ankle injury.
With rookie Malik Willis in the game, the Texans basically focused on Henry while daring the Titans to hurt them throwing the ball.
Henry at one point of the game told Willis not to worry.
“We blocking,” Henry said. “I’m going.”
A notable sign Henry is back and everyone seems to recognize it — beyond the NFL award, of course — came Thursday when he showed up on the injury report with a foot injury.
A reporter, perhaps speaking for the entire state of Tennessee, asked Henry if it was time to “panic.”
“My foot is fine,” Henry said with a smile. “There’s nothing wrong. I’ll be out there on Sunday playing. Foot is fine, there’s nothing to panic about. Everybody have a great Thursday.”
Same foot, another reporter asked?
“There’s nothing wrong with my foot — right or left,” Henry insisted. “The foot is fine.”
Everything’s back to normal with Derrick Henry.