Former Alabama football superstar Derrick Henry is ready for a breakthrough season. Consistency from the monster runner is needed from September through December.
In a league notorious for premier gladiator backs such as Walter Payton, Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, and Emmitt Smith, the demise of NFL running backs appeared imminent due to the influx of pass-happy and spread offenses. Former Alabama football star Derrick Henry is the one back that a team can build their offense around reminiscent of the 1980s.
Entering his fourth season, the second Heisman Trophy winner returns as the supercharged engine behind the Tennessee Titans old-school throwback offense.
Following a 2018 wildcard playoff win against the Kansas City Chiefs, Derrick Henry knocked on the proverbial door as the next best running back in the NFL. An injury to starter DeMarco Murray placed the ball into Henry’s unproven, yet ready hands. He did not disappoint, appearing unstoppable with 156 yards and one score on 23 carries. Unfortunately, the coaching staff lost their jobs afterward, and a new staff inherited the team.
The next season did not start the way everyone envisioned for Henry. Sharing the backfield with Dion Lewis, Derrick’s inconsistent production took a submarine nosedive for 12 games. Frustratingly, the most yards he gained during that stretch were 58 yards and two scores in a 34-10 victory over eventual NFL champions New England Patriots. After twelve games, he had 434 yards on 118 carries with four touchdowns. His first score came in week seven.
Awakening a sleeping giant
Suddenly, something clicked inside the burly running back. During a Monday night game versus the Jacksonville Jaguars, Derrick burst through the hole, stiff-armed four helpless defenders, and did not stop until he hit pay dirt 99 yards later. The dazzling run tied Cowboys great Tony Dorsett for the longest in NFL history, which he set in 1983.
— Tony Dorsett (@Tony_Dorsett) December 7, 2018
Finishing the game with 238 yards and four touchdowns, Henry substantiated he belonged in the conversation with the top NFL backs by going on a memorable five-game hot streak for the remainder of the season. Henry ran for 625 yards and eight touchdowns during that span. He was the first back to run for 170 yards in consecutive games since Jay Ayaji did it in October of 2016. Only 19 running backs have accomplished this feat, and the list includes all-time greats such as LaDainian Tomlinson, Marshall Faulk, and Earl Campbell.
Consistency plaques the only running back in the NFL who can put a team on his shoulders and lead them to the Super Bowl.
After starting slow, Henry finished the season with 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns, good for seventh in the league behind stalwarts Ezekial Elliott and Todd Gurley. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel bragged about his burly back during the NFL Combine,
“He ran hard, he ran angry, he ran physical, he ran with a purpose, he ran with confidence,” Vrabel said, “and he gave the guys blocking, he gave the receivers excitement to block for him.
Give him the ball, Coach Vrabel
Why did it take the Titans so long to realize they had a workhorse in Derrick? Henry owns the career high school rushing yardage with 12,124. He holds the Florida high school record with 510 yards rushing in a game. In his senior season at Yulee High School, Derrick finished with 4,261 yards and 55 touchdowns.
As an Alabama football junior, he set the Crimson Tide record for most rushing yards in a season with 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns. A well-known workout warrior, Henry can handle the increased workload.
A rare back with mammoth size (six-foot-three, 247 pounds), blazing speed (4.54) and power (squat over 500 pounds). Built like a middle linebacker, Derrick is a load to bring down especially late in games. Against Auburn, Henry carried the ball 46 times for 271 yards and one rushing touchdown. No doubt grows stronger as the game goes on. Tennessee does not need to platoon him with another back
Seven years ago, Adrian Peterson rushed for 2,000 yards. He is the last back to achieve this humongous feat. Joining the likes of O.J. Simpson, Terrell Davis, Dickerson, and Sanders would bestow wonders to Henry and the Titans. However, confidence is the key for a return to the success of last year.
Alabama football already owns the moniker “NFL U” due to the wide success of former players in the NFL. Derrick Henry, revered by the Alabama faithful, has an opportunity to add “RB U” to the mantle.