The Titans Desperately Need Their Risky $14 Million Investment to Wake Up to Overcome Derrick Henry’s Crushing Injury
The Tennessee Titans‘ worst nightmare came true when Derrick Henry suffered a potentially season-ending foot injury against the Indianapolis Colts. The All-Pro running back is the lifeblood of this Titans football team, but the team will now need to try and win without its best player. Henry’s injury instantly puts more pressure on the other stars, including Julio Jones.
The Tennessee Titans will desperately miss Derrick Henry
Derrick Henry may literally be the most valuable player in the NFL right now, regardless of position.
Henry was the heartbeat of the Tennessee Titans offense. He led the league in rushing the past two seasons and was well on his way to claiming his third consecutive rushing title.
The Alabama product was responsible for 1,091 of Tennessee’s 3,017 total yards on offense. The offensive game plan starts and ends with King Henry. When you have the most dominant running back in the NFL, you give him the ball early and often.
The Titans’ potent rushing attack opens up the play-action pass for Ryan Tannehill. Without Henry on the field, opposing defenses no longer need to stack the box against this offense.
Adrian Peterson is a physical runner like Henry, but at 36 years old, he is hardly a workhorse. Henry’s yards after contact total is insane.
Mike Vrabel will need other guys to step up on offense for the Titans to remain in the playoff hunt.
Julio Jones needs to rise to the occasion
The Titans brought Julio Jones to Tennessee in the offseason to be a playmaker in their offense. However, the early returns haven’t been as profitable as anticipated.
Tennessee acquired the seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver from the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for second and fourth-round draft picks.
Jones is making $14 million in his first season with the Titans. The team restructured his contract, so most of it is a signing bonus. Now it’s time for him to cash in on the field.
The prospects of a wide receiver duo of Jones and A.J. Brown sounded promising. However, injuries and chemistry have hampered the veteran receiver’s season thus far. Jones has caught just 17 passes for 301 yards and zero touchdowns in five games.
Brown has battled injuries as well, but the third-year wideout has stepped up over the past few weeks. He’s recorded 35 receptions for 509 yards and three touchdowns on the season.
Julio Jones needs to rise to the occasion if the Titans are going to make a push for the playoffs. With Derrick Henry out, the passing game will be much more vital to the success of the offense. Jones is no longer in his prime but still possesses the skill set of an elite NFL receiver.
If he can get going, the Titans’ offense can still be productive moving forward.
Tennessee still has enough pieces to be competitive
The Tennessee Titans are currently sitting in first place in the AFC South with a 6-2 record. Mike Vrabel and company had a week to prepare for their first game without Derrick Henry.
Tennessee will be facing the loaded Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football in Week 9. Although this will be a stiff test, there’s enough talent on the roster to still be competitive.
Ryan Tannehill will have to step up and lead the offense in Henry’s absence. Henry’s presence in the backfield often benefits him, so we’ll get an opportunity to see what he’s all about without the two-time Pro Bowler in the lineup.
A.J. Brown and Julio Jones have the talent to be one of the most dominant wide receiver tandems in the NFL. Tannehill will be relying on them to get open, and the wideouts will be depending on their signal-caller to make confident throws.
Adrian Peterson is a shell of his former self, but he can still provide value to this offense if he stays healthy.
The Titans relied on Henry wearing down defenses late in games, but AP isn’t going to replicate that dominance. This puts added pressure on the defense to make plays on the other side of the football.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, there’s a long shot for Derrick Henry to return in 2021. However, Tennessee shouldn’t count on it. It’s time to see how tough the Titans are.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference and contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.