Derrick Henry has had one of the most dominant stretches of any running back in NFL history.
Leading the team to the AFC Title Game, a 2,000-yard season followed by an injury-shortened 2021 has continued to help enhance the top power back in the game today.
Yet while the Tennessee Titans and Henry have enjoyed a recent run of success, the off-season has teased a possible transition period for the team and their lead back. The trade of wide receiver AJ Brown, and the drafting of Malik Willis have led to many questions centering around the Titan’s future viability as an AFC power.
Without Brown, the Titan’s offense will once again be focused on their power back in Derrick Henry. That’s not a walk in the park for any coach though.
“We’re going to have to have all hands on deck. You even see him on plays where you have three or four guys on him and he still sneaks through.” Briand Daboll said. “He’s just a unique player and he’s very good.”
Daboll has had prior experience with Henry over his career. During his time at Alabama, the Giant’s head coach met with the Heisman Trophy winner and even acknowledges that running the ball isn’t his only calling card.
“I’ve got a ton of respect for him as a man and player. You name it, and he can do it.”
Henry and the Giants met the Titans last in 2018 when the power back ran for 170 yards and scored two touchdowns.
But the Giant’s defense had none of their current starters on the roster back from the 2018 season. The front seven groups of Olivier Vernon, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Alec Ogletree have since been replaced by a faster defensive line consisting of Leonard Williams, Kayvon Thibodeaux, and Dexter Lawrence.
“I think the interesting thing is the whole league knows their style of offense. They’re clearly going to run the ball and the stretch run plays. A lot of teams know what they do, but they play old-school football and it’ll be a testament to the front line to stop them.” Leonard Williams said Tuesday.
The stretch running offense has been a staple of Tennessee’s offensive philosophy and Derrick Henry. While many of the league’s top-run defenses have struggled to find a way to solve the simple system, Williams believes that it could eventually fit his style of play.
“I think as long as the defensive linemen know to knock them back instead of trying to run flat with them. I think the part where d-line get caught up on these flat running teams if you run flat with them and it creates seams.” Williams added.
There hasn’t been a running-back better with finding the seams of the defense than Henry.
The former Heisman Trophy winner has totaled over 6,700 yards of rushing in his first six years in the league. He’s one of just eight players to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season and the first since 2012 to achieve the mark.
For the Giants to have a chance of slowing down the league’s top rusher, it will take a full-team approach. That means that it won’t just be up to the defensive line to halt Henry’s progress.
“You can’t necessarily stop him. He’s going to get some big runs, but we gotta play relentless and get our hats to the ball.” Xavier McKinney said after practice.
“As a defense, we got to get everyone to the ball and stop him before he gets going. It’s everybody’s game plan going against him.” Dexter Lawrence added. “We just got to be about it and more than just talking about it.”
Lawrence and Williams will be key pieces to trying to stop one of the most violent runners in the game today. The team that wins the trenches on Sunday could very well be the team walking off with a win.
For the Giants, stopping Derrick Henry is the first key to getting the Titans on their heels.
But as the players even understand, it’s a lot easier said than done.
For more on the matchup between Derrick Henry and the New York Giants, turn to AMNY.com