NFL

Derrick Henry looks primed to take Titans deep into postseason again

By Sports Desk November 30, 2020

In 2019, Derrick Henry put together a remarkable rushing season to propel the Tennessee Titans to the playoffs, where they made an unlikely run to the AFC Championship game.

After an instrumental performance in Tennessee's 45-26 win over their AFC South rivals the Indianapolis Colts in Week 12, Henry looks primed to carry the Titans deep into the postseason again and finish 2020 with an even more impressive statistical campaign.

Henry racked up 178 yards and three touchdowns as the Titans moved into first place in the division with five games still to play.

Last year, Henry won the rushing title with a league-leading 1,540 yards on the ground. He was also first in touchdowns (16) and rushing yards per game (102.7).

After his heroics at Lucas Oil Stadium, Henry has 1,257 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns and 114.3 rushing yards per game.

Henry, therefore, is on pace to significantly outperform what he did last season and, while he is unlikely to come close to the 2,000-yard seasons that rank among the best running back campaigns of all time, his efforts against Indianapolis were still historic.

The former Alabama star became the fourth player in NFL history with three games with at least 175 rushing yards and three touchdowns in his first five seasons, joining a list that features Jim Brown (five games), LaDainian Tomlinson (three) and Adrian Peterson (three).

Additionally, Henry now has reached 100 rushing yards in eight consecutive road games. That is tied with Chris Johnson for the second-longest streak in NFL history behind only Barry Sanders, who had 10 between 1996 and 1997.

Henry has achieved these feats running behind an offensive line that lost its starting left tackle Taylor Lewan and his backup Ty Sambrailo to serious injuries.

And a deeper dive into the numbers from Sunday suggest Henry's display was not just a product of impressive blocking from the offensive line but a reflection of how his remarkable size and speed makes him near impossible to stop.

According to the NFL's NextGen Stats, Henry averaged 7.7 yards per rush attempt on runs outside the offensive tackles. He had 146 of his 178 yards on such runs.

Few running backs of Henry's 6ft 3in and 247-pound frame have the speed to get to the edge of defenses and pick up significant yardage so consistently, and the extra value Henry added was also reflected by his performance in rush yards over expected (RYOE).

RYOE measures the difference between a player's rushing yards on a run or series of runs and the yards he was anticipated to gain.

In the win over the Colts, Henry averaged 1.19 RYOE per attempt, the eighth-highest average in the league through Sunday and third-highest among backs to receive at least 20 carries.

His season-long RYOE per attempt average of 0.7 yards is eighth in the league but the evidence from Week 12 indicates that is set to improve.

With three successive 100-yard games and four in his past five appearances, Henry is picking up steam at exactly the right time, his form sending an ominous warning to Tennessee's rivals in the AFC.

The NFL equivalent of a freight train, Henry is the undoubted focal point of a talented Tennessee offense. If he maintains the level of play he demonstrated in Week 12, the Titans will be extremely difficult to derail.

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