Derrick Henry possibly running out of time with the Titans
The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner talked a month ago about needing to run better and be more physical. Three games later, nothing much has changed — for now. Henry is still the starter, though Dion Lewis is making a case for that spot. It’s Lewis who is coming off the best rushing game this season by a Tennessee running back.
“We all know, you guys all know, if you’re inconsistent in this league, they’ll find somebody to replace you,” Henry said. “So I feel like the biggest thing is just being consistent during everything that I do. Being efficient, finishing runs, being physical, running hard. Like I said, I stood in front of y’all and said all those things, but I don’t feel like I’ve done those things.”
Henry is in his third season after being the Titans’ third pick in the 2016 draft out of Alabama. Lewis is the free agent general manager Jon Robinson signed in March to a four-year deal.
During the Titans’ bye last week, Henry studied each of those 84 carries and evaluated himself. He found plenty he can do better by running like the 6-foot-3, 247-pound back he is. Henry is averaging a career-worst 3.3 yards per carry. Lewis leads Tennessee in rushing with 277 yards — 4 more than Henry who’s had 11 more carries this season.
The Titans (3-4) need an improved running game having lost three straight, and they rank 19th in the NFL averaging only 107.9 yards rushing per game. They had a season-high 164 yards rushing Oct. 21 in London, and Lewis was a big key running for a season-high 91 yards. Lewis finished with a career-best 155 yards from scrimmage.
Asked about Henry, Titans coach Mike Vrabel said they have to find ways to clean up mistakes across the offense that have cost yards. That includes finishing runs better.
“There are times if you look at yourself and say, ‘Man, I could have done a better job.’ I think that’s what Derrick is doing,” Vrabel said. “I appreciate that mentality from him. He can do more and we all can do more.”
Tennessee signed fullback Jalston Fowler on Monday to add another blocker to the offensive mix. The Titans visit Dallas (3-4) and know the Cowboys will be running the ball with Ezekiel Elliott who’s second in the NFL with 619 yards rushing. That makes getting the run game working better crucial against a Dallas defense ranked third in fewest yards allowed and ninth against the run, giving up 96.3 yards per game.
Offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur said the Titans’ coaches and players still have plenty of confidence in Henry. But Henry has to make the most of his opportunities with the ball.
“He’s a big back, and any time you’re a big back, you want to make sure you’re finishing runs,” LaFleur said. “He’s done a pretty good job of that. We’ve just got to get him going. We’ve got to get him going, and I think it’s a matter of time before we’re able to do it. But really it takes everybody. It’s not just Derrick. It takes all 11.”
Notes: Both starting guards practiced fully Friday, including RG Josh Kline (ankle) who was limited Thursday. WR Corey Davis (hamstring) was limited for a second straight day. S Kenny Vaccaro, who has missed the past three games with an elbow injury, practiced fully for a second straight day.