Derrick Henry is the most physically imposing running back in the NFL today. The Tennessee Titans star has been gashing opposing defense for the past three seasons. Despite a hefty workload, there is no indication that King Henry is slowing down anytime soon. He has a legitimate opportunity to make more history in the 2021 NFL season.
Derrick Henry has won back-to-back league rushing titles
After a slow start to his NFL career, Derrick Henry has obliterated defenses for three straight seasons. He rushed for 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2018. His carry total saw a significant jump in 2019 when he ran the ball 303 times. The Alabama product rushed for 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns in the 2019 season. He finished the season leading the league in rushing yards and touchdowns.
The Titans gave Henry his largest workload in the 2020 season. He carried the ball 378 times for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns. He won his second consecutive rushing title by a sizable margin.
The Yulee, Florida native paced the NFL in rushing attempts the past two seasons. His 378 carries in 2020 tied for No. 19 on the all-time single-season rushing attempts list.
There have been some concerns about how long Henry can last as a workhorse running back, considering the average shelf life of NFL running backs. At 6-foot-3, 247 pounds, the 2020 AP Offensive Player of the Year is a handful. He puts in the work in the offseason, and it’s evident because he has not worn down despite his large workload.
The new-look Titans will continue to feature Derrick Henry
The Tennessee Titans are entering the 2021 season without former offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, who took a head coaching job with the Atlanta Falcons. However, things shouldn’t change too much as the team promoted from within. Tight ends coach Todd Downing will now serve as the offensive coordinator in Tennessee.
After losing integral offensive weapons like Jonnu Smith and Corey Davis, the front office acquired All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones from the Falcons. Pairing Jones with third-year rising star A.J. Brown gives the Titans an explosive duo at receiver.
Some will argue that adding another star wideout hurts Henry’s chances of winning another rushing title. Instead, it should actually improve his chances. With two dangerous weapons on the outside, defenses can no longer stack the box to stop Henry. Ryan Tannehill is more than capable of burning any team that does that.
It’ll be interesting to see how teams game plan to slow down the Titans offense. The presence of two legitimate big-play receiving threats will keep defenses honest. It should open up even more running lanes for King Henry.
Head coach Mike Vrabel wore a mask during the 2020 season that read, “Please give the ball to Derrick Henry.” Expect that mantra to continue in 2021.
Which players are the biggest threat to a 3-peat for the Titans RB
The 2020 NFL rushing title race wasn’t exactly close as Henry and Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook were separated by 470 yards. However, Nick Chubb of the Cleveland Browns rushed for 1,494 yards in 2019, making for a photo finish with the Titans star.
Looking ahead to the 2021 season, there are multiple strong candidates to dethrone King Henry. Cook has finished in the top-10 in each of the past two seasons and combined for 29 touchdowns during that span. The former Florida State standout has also missed significant time to due to injury, even dating back to his time with the Seminoles. If he can stay healthy, Cook has as good of a chance as anyone.
Chubb is the one running back of the elites who mirrors Henry’s game the most. He doesn’t offer much in the receiving game. Still, Chubb is a powerful runner who excels as running through contact and lowering the boom on defenders. He will receive a large workload as well. The primary deterrent for Chubb’s case is the presence of Kareem Hunt, who will get plenty of snaps as well.
The Carolina Panthers are welcoming back Christian McCaffrey, one of the most dynamic players at the position. He finished third in rushing in 2019. Another player who has battled injuries in the past, there’s going to be that concern. Still, he will receive the lion’s share of touches when he’s healthy. McCaffrey may be a better bet to lead the NFL in all-purpose yards given his involvement in the passing game.
Derrick Henry will not be competing for touches and has proven to be durable up to this point in his career. Many players wear down with more touches, especially as it gets later in the season. However, Henry gets better, and that’s where he makes up ground.
The Titans running back should be the favorite to league the NFL in rushing again in 2021.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.