Is Derrick Henry unique? Or is it a product of a heavy workload and a strong cast in the area? Are there other sledgehammers out there that could give their team the power and impact Henry gives the Tennessee Titans? Perhaps a differently shaped back could produce on Henry’s level if given the right chance.
Also, how good is Henry in relation to the other backs in the league? And does his successive brilliant seasons change the way running backs are discovered?
To some, Henry is unique. In a golden age of double-threat quarterbacks, where passes made up nearly 60 percent of offensive games this season, Henry is a throwback to a time when running backs were toned down by positional timeshares and divided into task-based roles.
« Derrick Henry is one of the best running backs ever played in the game and he’s in the zone right now, » Ravens defender Calais Campbell said this week.
If only you had the second half of Henrys Counting the 2020 season, he would still have finished third in the NFL. Only the last four games? Even so, Henry’s rushing total would be 23rd in the league for the quarter season.
However, all 16 games are counted in the league’s annals, and that’s how Henry achieved something this season that turned out to be like feels like a time capsule: 2,027 rush yards, the fifth highest total season in NFL history.
Even the number of « running backs doesn’t matter » has to acknowledge what Henry has achieved in recent seasons. In his last 38 games (including playoffs) he has reached 4,598 yards and 42 TDs. It’s something we have more with the days of O.J. Simpson and Eric Dickerson as in that pass-first era.
Henry has led the Titans to the playoffs for the second year in a row, and Sunday’s wildcard matchup will be his third game against the Ravens in 365 days be. In the first two encounters, Henry ran for a total of 328 yards, threw for a TD (in last year’s divisional playoff game), and scored the walk-off TD (in the Titans’ overtime win in Week 11).
The Ravens contained Henry for much of the game earlier this season, keeping him at 2 yards or less in 11 of his first 13 transfers, and even knocking Henry briefly out of the game for a few games in the second half. On his 28th carry, Henry burst free for the 29-yard game winner.
Critics say Henry is nothing special as a receiver (11 catches for 30 yards in his last 11 games). As strange as it sounds, it is not considered a great pass blocker despite its shocking bulk. And Henry has fumbled three times in his last five games.
Add to this the worry: When will he hit the wall? At some point his heavy workforce caught up with Henry (who turned 27 earlier this week) because there are many backs before the age of 30.
“Are running backs important? I mean, yes you can. But I would say that broad recipients are important, too, ”a deputy general manager told Yahoo Sports. “Look at how Buffalo Stefon gets Diggs and what difference he made there. Better yet, see what happened to Houston when they [DeAndre] Hopkins traded. Exchanged for a running back, no less!
“Ask Tom Brady if recipients are important. He didn’t have one in New England last year. He’s got a ton in Tampa Bay this year. The Patriots haven’t been able to generate much this season, but Tom suddenly can with Tampa. «
Even so, a lot of fans want their favorite NFL team to find their own King Henry. Is there another one out there – in the 2021 NFL draft or beyond? And even if so, a team really needs him ?
A quick look at Henry’s unusual combination of traits makes it hard to imagine his doppelganger walking along soon.
There are several things that make Henry a rare force, a player who at least at a time , in which running backs ran back, entered the MVP discussion, is rarely mentioned for this award. (Only four backs have received MVP votes since 2008)
First, there’s size. Henry is 6-foot -3 – extremely tall for a back – and 247 pounds Since 1999, only one real traffic jam in the NFL’s Scouting Combine has been heavier than Henry: the 267-pound Brandon Jacobs, who has spent nine NFL seasons, mostly with New York Giants, soaring 5,094 yards.
Henry has Jacobs’ career rushing -Total number (5,860) exceeded in five seasons. He hit that mark with a sledgehammer style, though Henry can get to the edge (he ran a 4.54-yard shot at the combine) and even poor, unsuspecting defenders with vicious, stiff arms across his 33-inch vines aside.
Besides his size, Henry is also the best workhorse in the league. Of the 27 games this season in which one back carried the ball 25 or more times, Henry was the author of seven.
After a total of 409 touches in 18 games (regular season and playoffs combined) in 2019, he enters the Playoffs this season with 397 touches in 16 games. That’s 806 touches in the last two seasons combined. Next up on the line is the Minnesota Vikings’ Dalvin Cook at 705.
Most teams tend to quit the running game when they grow up. Not the titans who haven’t moved much away from Henry this season. They kept feeding him. It was too much of their offense not to do it, you might conclude.
The Titans have played 1,260 offensive games that season. Of these, 378 were handovers to Henry – 30 percent right on the nose.
In games after the first quarter, when the Titans lost two or three points (deficits between nine and 24 points), they gave Henry 71 out of a possible 261 Play the ball. That’s a 27.2 percent usage rate, a small decrease.
This rate was immensely different from any other RB this season. Cook came closest to utilizing Henry, scoring 24.7 percent of the Vikings’ hits and 18.4 percent of hits that season, with Minnesota two or three points behind after the first quarter.
To get a Henry- To find similar backs, an NFL team must find one with unusual physical characteristics and athleticism. someone who can handle an extensive, nerve-wracking workload from week to week; and that team must also commit to presenting this player as only the Titans do to Henry.
« Deciding you want the next Derrick Henry is one thing; Finding him is another matter, ”said the deputy GM. « I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to start with as your strategy design makes a lot of sense. You don’t go unicorn hunting, do you? I haven’t had too many [backs like Henry] in the years I’ve been doing this. seen. «
The closest thing to Henry physically and currently in the league could be the third stringer on a team. The Green Bay Packers used a second round draft pick for A.J. Dillon, a 250-pound truck that has been third on the team’s depth map for most of its rookie season.
We got a glimpse of what he can do in a featured role – happened against Henry’s titans in Week 16 – when Dillon raced 21 times for 124 yards and two points in the 40-14 win. Henry, meanwhile, was kept relatively in check with 98 yards over 23 runs and a long run of 10.
Packer’s head coach Matt LaFleur was the Titans’ offensive coordinator in 2018. For parts of this season, Henry shared the stretcher with Dion Lewis; In the first 12 games, Henry carried the ball 128 times for 474 yards and Lewis 135 times for 464 yards.
Only in the last four games of this season did LaFleur release Henry in a leading role with 21.8 transfers per game. It would probably take Aaron Jones of the Packers to run in the free agency this off-season for Dillon to have a chance at earning a Henry-like workload.
One of the other king-size players in the league, Baltimore’s Gus Edwards will face Henry on Sunday. The 238-pound Edwards ran a 4.53 40 on Rutgers’ Pro-Day in 2018, so it’s close to Henry’s physical traits. Like Dillon, Edwards has to look for porters in Baltimore’s backfield. It’s a familiar story in a league where the majority of teams split their transfers among multiple defenders.
The 2021 NFL drafting class has some bigger backdrops, although there may not be a true Henry clone among them. Next up could be Alabama’s Najee Harris.
Following the power-back tradition established by Henry and Bo Scarbrough in Bama, Harris returned to school for his senior year to film his best season yet in 2020 . The 232-pound harris has proven the ability to run through – or even jump – defenders and possesses the skills to handle a large workload.
Other taller-back candidates in the 2021 class include the 220-pound Javonte Williams of North Carolina, the 221-pound Rhamondre Stevenson of Oklahoma, the 225-pound Trey Sermon from Ohio State, the 228-pound Spencer Brown from UAB, and the Louisiana duo of 218-pound Elijah Mitchell and 222 pounds of Trey Ragas.
There is also an intrigue in Harris’ Alabama teammate, 224-pound Brian Robinson, who is not as talented but will enter the NFL with a far lighter workload – 281 career touches in four seasons in Monday’s national title game, Harris’ 689 touches.
That’s more than Henry’s three-year total (619 touches) at Bama. If you add those to his NFL touches, he’s been at 2,005 as of 2013.
For various reasons, there might not be a first round in 2021. Harris, Williams, Stevenson and Sermon could all be on Day 2 (Rounds 2 and 3) this spring.
« Day 2 has really been the sweet spot for these guys over the past few years, » said a national scout. “These tips were the best values. Henry left in the middle of the second. Dalvin Cook left in the middle of the second. [Nick] Chubb and [Jonathan] Taylor, both second round players. “
The National Scout added, » We don’t have a hard and fast rule for [not using a selection for the first round on a rewind]. It’s more of a feeling and a determination of how the board is built and what [prospects] on positions with higher priority] are still on the board. Whatever the reason, it just seems like there’s always a run on day 2. «
» It’s easier to find good talent there without the high selection, « he said. “[Undrafted Jaguars Rookie] James Robinson has received a signing bonus of $ 25,000. If I were to ask you if you’d rather have him or Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the 2020 first round player, in the first round, I know what your answer could be. “
Pro Football Focus senior NFL analyst Sam Monson agrees. PFF’s Wins Over Replacement (WAR) metric gives us some insight into the worth of running backs who are lower on the hole – and their numbers suggest he’s as good as Henry, not much better than the next best back out there.
« Henry’s WAR this season is .25, that’s .04 more than Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara, » Monsoon wrote in an email. « He’s the most valuable RB, but he’s no order of magnitude off the end of the scale.
» It’s an order of magnitude less than other positions, however. Davante Adams is almost four times higher at 0.9 WAR. Jaire Alexander is at 1.4. Aaron Donald at 0.7. In fact, the data says that Derrick Henry is more of a product of his environment than a product that is better than anyone else that runs back. «
Monson’s belief is that Henry of a better environment than the cast benefited from his outbreak.
« When Marcus Mariota was at QB and playing like crap, Henry was in a rush eleventh in the league, » he said. « [Ryan] Tannehill comes in and has since then played at elite level and Henry is unstoppable. It’s no coincidence.
« It’s not to be said that Henry is not talented or that he cannot play beyond expectations on individual runs. But it’s just that he moves the needle less than it does a shitty he would do QB – for quick production. “
Back to that workload. At some point, Henry will collapse. It’s in the nature of the position.
In a perfect world, the Titans hope that sometime after the 2023 season, when the four-year $ 50 million deal he signed in June expires. The reality is that the Titans could move on from Henry before that, with dead cap numbers of $ 6 million (after the 2021 season) and $ 3 million (after 2022).
If Henry in the sustaining the workload over the past two years next season, it would hit 2,000 NFL touches. The 2,000-touch mark is, for some talent judges, a kind of glass ceiling for the back, after which one back tends to wear off, while others think the mark is closer to 2,500. The college workload also needs to be considered.
Various studies commissioned by NFL teams and conducted by outside sources all indicate a clear probability: backs have expiration dates and fall in terms of production and health off a cliff rather than drifting straight down.
There are notable exceptions. Adrian Peterson, the last to run more than 2,000 yards in the 2009 season before Henry did so this season, passed the 3,500 mark (college plus NFL) in a pretty incredible 2015 campaign.
Frank Gore was one of the League’s greatest workhorses of all time. With an average of 233.4, he broadcasts his incredible 16 NFL seasons. Aside from Gore and Pederson, LeSean McCoy is the only one to have had more than 2,000 regular season touches in the NFL since early 2011.
However, those are the anomalies. This is a big reason why backs are switched regularly in the NFL, and why few take on roles beyond 30 years.
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