RBs in Review: Grading Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis

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Review

Unit As A Whole

This past season, the running back unit as a whole was expected to take a step forward under former offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur.  LaFleur took the head coaching job with the Green Bay Packers and we, the Titans family, wish him all the best.

This season, the Titans ground game as a whole ran for 2027 yards and 15 touchdowns on 456 attempts.  That’s an efficient 4.4 yards per attempt.  The Titans running backs, including David Fluellen and Jeremy McNichols, produced 1,596 yards and 13 touchdowns on 376 attempts.  That comes out to a less efficient 4.2 yards per attempt.

As a whole though, this unit graded out reasonably well.  The unit ranked ninth in rush attempts according to pro-football-reference and ranked sixth in total rush yards.  However, from an efficiency standpoint, the unit drops off rather sharply.  The Titans 15 rushing touchdowns is still good for 11th overall in the league.  The unit ranked 16th in the league overall in yards per attempt.

The more slowed down, physical ground and pound style offense likely inhibited the explosiveness of this offense as a whole.  The Titans ranked 27th in scoring offense with 19.4 points per game; 310 points overall.  Still coming in, most expected the strength of this team to be its ground game and explosive shots through the air on play action.  The ground game did its job.

Overall Grade: B

Derrick Henry

Henry had shown many flashes of explosive playmaking in his first two seasons with the Titans.  Henry wasn’t getting quite the volume that he needed behind former lead back DeMarco Murray.  However, one of the biggest question marks about Henry this season was how well he would schematically mesh with LaFleur’s style of offense.

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LaFleur made his mark as a creative offensive mind that tried to blend the run and passing games.  Henry is a capable pass catcher, but it is certainly not his strength.  That lead to Henry struggling to find his way in the offense for most of the season.

There were signs of Henry starting to find his way beginning in week nine against Dallas.  Henry was getting low volume but he averaged 4.5 yards per attempt, followed by 5.27 and 5.11 yards per attempt in his next two respective games.  In week 14 Henry exploded against the Jaguars for 238 carries and four touchdowns on only 17 rush attempts.

Henry never looked back the rest of the season.  In the final three games after his explosion, Henry rushed the ball 70 times for 347 yards and three touchdowns.  Henry finished the season rushing 215 times for 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Overall Grade: B+

Dion Lewis

Lewis was signed in the offseason to be the change of pace and third-down back behind Henry.  Many analysts believed that Lewis was a better fit for LaFleur’s style of offense and the results reflected it early.  However, after week 10, Lewis saw his role diminish more to passing downs, change of pace role.  This happened to coincide with Henry’s emergence in the running game.

Still, Lewis was effective early and showed how valuable he was to the Titans offense.  Lewis finished the season with a pedestrian 155 rush attempts for 517 yards and one touchdown.  Lewis’ receiving numbers show his value, with 59 receptions for 400 yards and a touchdown.  While he didn’t quite live up to expectations, Lewis proved to be a dangerous weapon at times for the Titans.

Overall Grade: C

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