Derrick Henry has been the most dominant running back in the NFL over the last year. After he dominated in the final four games of 2018-19, Henry picked up where he left off and lead the NFL in rushing in 2019-20. Henry is a tough runner and fast and elusive for his size, making him extremely hard to tackle.
Last season, Henry was among the most valuable players in the NFL to their team. Henry was key in the Titans' Playoff run and became the first player in NFL history to rush for 170+ yards in consecutive playoff games. Additionally, he recorded the most rushing yards ever in a single postseason run.
In the regular season, Henry lead the league with 1,540 rushing yards and tied for first in rushing touchdowns with 16. In total, he recorded 1,986 yards in the regular season and playoffs, 1,567 of those yards coming after contact. Against stacked boxes, Henry ran for 729 yards and 13 touchdowns, which lead the NFL.
Despite his incredible performance in 2019-20, many believe he will not continue that and is not truly as good as his stats say. Here is how Henry will continue his success in 2020:
1. The offense will have a whole season together and an improved passing game
Through the first 6 games of the season, when Marcus Mariota was starting at Quarterback, Derrick Henry averaged just 69 rushing yards per game. After Ryan Tannehill took over at Quarterback in Week 7 and the Titans' passing game began to improve, so did the run game. In Weeks 7-16, Henry averaged an astounding 124 yards per game. Tannehill starting for an entire season should greatly benefit Henry in 2020. Additionally, few changes were made to the offense has a whole; the only change was RT, Jack Conklin, who was replaced with Dennis Kelly.
2. When Henry has started in the past, he made the most of the of his opportunity
When Derrick Henry was drafted by the Titans in 2016, he came in as a backup to DeMarco Murray. Murray ranked 4th in the NFL in yards in 2016 and Henry had just 490 yards and 6 touchdowns as Murray's backup. In 2017, Murray was the starter until very late in the season when he was injured and Henry came in and played very well. Notably, Henry rushed for 150 yards and a touchdown in the AFC wildcard game against the Chiefs. The 2018 seasons was OK for Henry but as he began to get more carries, he greatly improved. In the beginning of the season he was rushing less than 10 times per game in many cases and as Henry received more carries, the offense improved. In the last 4 games, Henry had over 15 carries in each game and averaged 146 yards per game including a massive 4 touchdown performance against the Jaguars.
3. Henry's skillset is unmatched and hard to plan for
In the 2019-20 playoffs, the Titans faced one of the greatest coaches of all time, Bill Belichick. Belichick has a history of taking away the opposing team's best player and in this case, the Titans best player was Derrick Henry. Despite knowing what the Titans would do (feed Henry the ball all game), Belichick and the Patriots could not stop it. Henry ran for 182 yards and a touchdown and was ultimately the reason the Titans won the game. This game speaks to Henry's skillset and ability to adapt. Many see Henry as strictly an aggressive runner who cannot run outside the numbers. In reality, Henry is extremely fast for his size and when he gets in the open field, he is very dangerous:
Henry's work ethic along with the players around him will contribute to his success in 2020. Henry's final games of 2018 and 2019 season were not a fluke, despite what some analysts may say. Henry was the best runner in the NFL in 2019 and I truly believe he can follow up last season with a similar year of 1,600+ yards and 15+ touchdowns.
While players often become complacent after receiving a large contract, Henry will not do that. He is one of the most motivated and hard working players I have ever seen. Henry is poised for another strong season in 2020 and he will prove the doubters wrong once again.