Titans’ Derrick Henry Has Career Day in Jacksonville
Titans running back Derrick Henry’s second half surge was instrumental is getting the Tennessee’s stagnant offense moving. With DeMarco Murray affected by a reported hamstring tweak, Henry took over as the feature back. On 14 carries, Henry managed avoid taking a loss on a single attempt. He ran with malicious intent that helped put the “Smash” back in “Smashmouth”.
— Super Mariota (@MarcusMariGOATa) September 18, 2017
What’s more interesting is the fact the Henry’s emergence began at the tail end of last season.
Derrick Henry has more yards per carry, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns than DeMarco Murray in the Titans' last 5 games pic.twitter.com/IsYCgNMf3G
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) September 17, 2017
Yesterday’s game was an outlier that influenced how the above image is perceived. With yesterday’s stats removed, the comparison would look like this.
|34 Carries||55 Carries|
|161 Yards||196 Yards|
|4.7 YPC||3.5 YPC|
Granted Murray was bothered by a toe injury he suffered early in the season, Henry still managed to have a higher average per carry as well as producing three touchdowns. Murray has 69 yards on 21 carries this season. Henry’s big day put him at 117 yards on 20 carries. Tennessee will continue to feed Henry in Murray’s absence, and the big back is ready to eat.
No Running Back Controversy
Even if Henry continues to pound the rock, Murray will not be cast away. He’ll be afforded the time needed to recover. Hamstring injuries tend to nag and can linger throughout the season. Fortunately for the Titans, they have two feature backs on their roster. If Henry continues to influence the offense’s productivity by opening up the pass with the run, the AFC South crown will be there for the taking. A healthy Murray late in the season could make for an interesting post season run.
The good thing about the Titans situation is the fact that both Henry and Murray are not overly concerned with individual accolades.
— 94.9 Game 2 (@949Game2) September 13, 2017
Both are bought into the culture and the idea of winning football games. Despite whatever outside noise arises, Henry and Murray remain committed to the team goal. The Titans can choose to find a balance in the backfield and feed the hot hand on a game by game basis. If Murray return to full health sooner than expected his production will only help the team.
In the meanwhile, David Fluellen can add productivity to the backfield if Murray is inactive for a few weeks. In three touches, he managed to gain 18 yards in garbage time. However, he showed some flashes of what he can do in the preseason. He’s also familiar with the offense having spent time on the practice squad last season. Fluellen earned his stripes and will likely get to see more regular season touches while Murray rests.
Murray Clearly Injured
Against both the Raiders and Jaguars, it was easily observed that Murray was not himself. He wasn’t attacking the hole, he lacked the burst he showcased last season and he appeared to be indecisive at times. In 2016, Murray ran instinctively. The offensive line hasn’t opened up gaping holes as they did so frequently last season. With that being said, Murray would hit his one cut and slice though even the smallest creases of daylight gaining yards in bunches. He took multiple carries for hefty gains and long touchdowns. Murray was also very active and effective in the passing game. Whether his duty was to block on an assignment or find space and make a play through the air, he did what he had to do.
A big reason why Murray stayed on the field was more than what he could do on the ground. He excelled where Henry struggled. Henry had a difficult time catching and in pass protection, which at times made him a liability. Henry took the criticism on the chin and put in the work in the offseason to improve areas he struggled with. He also spent time adding more muscle mass to his frame, which made him that much more imposing.Henry has shown improvement in both his hands and in pass protection, the latter still being a work in progress.
There will always be questions about how Henry and Murray can coexist in the backfield. The personality and character of both men will be able to withstand whatever comes their way. It will be much easier to do so if the Titans continue to win games.
Stats referenced at NFL.com and ESPN.com