The world is completely enamored with the NFL Combine performances of incoming running backs like Saquon Barkley and Nick Chubb. Analysts and fans alike can’t wait to see what this incoming crop of backs can do. Derrick Henry is primed for an explosive 2018 season. Here are five reasons why Henry could potentially become the talk of the young running backs this season.
1. GM Jon Robinson
Titans General Manager Jon Robinson was peppered with questions about the running back situation in Tennessee. When asked about DeMarco Murray, Robinson remained non-committal about Murray’s future with the Titans. Robinson did hint at the financial component playing a big factor in regards to free agency. Murray, has been very effective for the Titans so far but is scheduled to make $6.5 million next season. Tennessee can cut Murray without any cap space hit.
When asked about Henry, Robinson did not shy away from praising his young back. Robinson said he was very impressed with Henry’s production all season. He was even quoted as saying “We are glad Derrick is on the football team and look forward to handing it to him, throwing it to him, and getting it in his hands so he can make yards”. Robinson clearly believes in Henry as an every down back going forward.
DeMarco Murray, last season, disappointed compared to his normal standards. It is worth mentioning that Murray was dealing with nagging injuries for almost the entire season. Assuming the Titans cut Murray, who just turned 30, and free up the $6.5M Henry is in line to potentially inherit a lot of touches. Last season, Murray touched the ball 223 times. Murray ran 184 times for 659 yards and caught the ball 39 times for 266 yards.
Henry was no slouch when it came to touching the ball. He ran the ball 176 times for 744 yards and caught 11 balls for 136 yards. Henry touched the ball 187 times during the season and was clearly the more effective runner. While it’s unlikely Henry runs the ball 184 more times or catches the ball 39 more times, he still is in position for a huge bump next season.
2. Derrick Henry without DeMarco Murray
Football fans caught a glimpse of what Henry was capable of without Murray stealing significant carries last season. It’s no coincidence that Henry looked like an absolute beast due to Murray being out with a knee injury at the end of the season. In the Titans playoff win against the Chiefs, Henry rushed the ball 23 times for 156 yards and a touchdown. That’s a whopping 6.8 yards per carry. Henry also caught two balls for 35 yards. Henry teased football fans and fantasy players with an incredible stat line and a glimpse of his potential. Just imagine what Henry will do as a clear-cut, every down bell cow behind the Titans stout offensive line.
4. Matt LaFleur
As part of the Titans coaching overhaul this season, GM Robinson brought in Matt LaFleur to take over the Titans offense. He has made it no secret how excited he is to work with the Titans young quarterback, Marcus Mariota. LaFleur has gone on record hinting at wanting to unleash the full potential of Mariota. LaFleur wants to implement more designed runs, more screens, and a greater emphasis on play action. This will lead to defenses stacking the boxes less against Henry. Derrick Henry will be able to use his potential to the fullest.
2018 is shaping up to be a special season for Derrick Henry.