At the top of the itinerary in 2018 will be what to do with the running back combination of Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray. The decision should be an easy one. Derrick Henry needs to be “the guy” going forward. If his past tells us anything, Henry’s productivity will elevate with an increased role. Every step of the way in Henry’s career he has made strides as his role expanded.
Derrick Henry set a high school rushing record at Yulee High going for 12,124 yards rushing on 1,397 carries, which averages out at 8.7 yards a carry and 252.6 yards a game. Henry was a four-year standout at Yulee High.
His Freshman year, Henry rushed for 2,465 yards on 313 carries. That was 7.9 yards a carry and 224 yards a game. The next year it was no secret that Henry was a force to be reckoned with. His sophomore season he still had 313 carries but his yards per rush got bumped up one whole yard to 8.9 a carry. His yards per game was bumped up to 232 per game. His total yards rushing went up from 2,465 to 2,788 This displays that without even giving him more rushing touches his yards improved both per carry and per game. Also, consider this. While having the same amount of carries Freshman and Sophomore year, his touchdowns went up from 26 to 38.
By his junior year, Henry still managed to not have his stats tail off too much despite rushing four less times. He had 309 carries opposed to 313 and still rushed for 8.4 a carry and 217.5 a game. He still had 34 touchdowns. Henry maintained record numbers his junior year despite being game planned by every single team even more than his sophomore campaign. Connect the dots and see that even though more NFL teams have to book on him, in 2018 he would flourish even with more carries.
Exhibit A is his senior year. His coach opted to ride Henry more the same way the Titans should. He had 462 carries and elevated his average rush to 9.2 a rush and 327.8 a game. Significantly more carries totaled significantly more productivity.
His Freshman year at Alabama he had 35 rushes totaling 382 yards on the year.. That’s a whopping 10.9 a carry to go with three TD’s. On the receiving threat he had just one grab but for 61 yards.
Henry’s sophomore year his role with the Tide boomed and his productivity took a big leap as well. His rush average did dip to 5.8 but he had 137 more rushes. He went from 38 yards rushing a game all the way to 70 a game and 382 yards overall rushing to 990 yards. His sophomore year he also punched it in for six 11 times, eight more than his Freshman year.
Even Henry’s receiving numbers went up his sophomore years. Instead of one catch for 61 yards he had five snags for 133 yards. Instead of just a single receiving TD he had two.
You are seeing a developing trend here. The more Henry you see the more results you get. Case and point with Henry’s senior year at Alabama. His already gaudy numbers went up and he exploded.
His junior year he went from having 172 rushes his sophomore year to 395 runs. He went from 990 yards rushing to 2,219. Despite carrying more load he still averaged 5.6 a carry.
National Football League
A sophomore slump is common for NFL running backs. This did not happen with Henry. As a rookie he had 110 rushes for 490 yards (4.5 YPC) and five total touchdowns. His second year in the league he had 176 rushes for 744 yards with six total touchdowns. Henry has demonstrated that he can maintain consistency with more carries. An increased workload Derrick Henry would pay dividends for the Titans. The sweet spot should be 25 carries per game.
Take a glance at Eddie George’s stats. In the year 2000, George averaged 25.2 attempts a game in his fifth season in the league. This ended up being George’s most successful year of his career with 1,509 yards. George finished the year with 403 rushing attempts.
With Henry’s frame, nearly identical to George, he is a guy that could take more of a pounding if called upon. Going into his third season as a professional, Henry has less wear and tear than George did when his rushing attempts increased.
Henry should get the bulk of the load in 2018, especially with DeMarco Murray likely not returning to the Titans. Throughout Henry’s career, more touches has equated to better production overall. Expect 2018 to be no different. The Titans need to unleash Henry and provide him the opportunity to make the same leap he has demonstrated throughout his football career.