NASHVILLE, Tenn. — One of the Tennessee Titans’ best offensive weapons, RB Derrick Henry, hasn’t been himself so far in 2020.

While Henry has already amassed 376 yards on the ground, putting him on pace to finish the season with over 1,500 yards, he hasn’t been very explosive.

His longest run so far in 2020 was just 16 yards, and he’s averaging a mere 3.7 yards per carry.

While the 4-0 Titans have been just fine without explosive plays from Henry, they’d be a lot better with them.

Long, explosive runs have been the hallmark of Henry’s career. He’s certainly also the type of running back who can grind out tough, 5-yard runs up the gut, but his big-play potential is what makes him special.

In 2020, those plays have been absent, and the reason is unclear.

Perhaps the most likely reason is that defenses facing the Titans have been particularly aggressive in trying to stop Henry, through run blitzes and putting extra players near the line of scrimmage.

Having that added pressure has made things difficult for Henry, though he knows it’s not an excuse.

“If we’re going to run the ball against a loaded box, we’ve got to make it work,” Henry said.

“We know there are going to be loaded boxes. It’s all about beating the man in front of you.”

Another potential explanation is that the Titans’ run blocking hasn’t been very good.

The offensive line has been far from disastrous in the run game, but it does seem like Henry hasn’t been seeing holes as big as he’s used to.

Head coach Mike Vrabel, when asked for his evaluation of the Titans’ run-blocking efforts in 2020, gave a results-based answer: “I guess good enough to get less than four yards a carry.”

 

Another factor that’s potentially affected Henry’s big-play ability is that he simply isn’t doing a good enough job.

There have been times in 2020 where Henry has looked a little slow and struggled to make cutbacks, though he’s still been more than efficient in goal-line and short-yardage situations.

When the Titans made their run to the AFC Championship game in January, it was on the heels of commanding performances by Henry, propelled by frequent long runs.

Though the Titans offense has been one of the most effective units in the NFL in 2020, it will need Henry to return to his typical, dominating ways to reach its full potential.

The Titans need those chunk plays, and offensive coordinator Arthur Smith seems to think they could be just around the corner.

“Eventually, as you keep going through this, and as we get into more of a rhythm in a run game, we’ll see some start to pop.”

Cover image: Steve Roberts/USA Today


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