Henry’s runs give Titans emotional boost

Friday, November 29, 2019, Vol. 43, No. 48

Derrick Henry scores on a 7-yard run against the Jaguars, his second TD in 16 seconds. He had 126 yards rushing in the third quarter and 159 overall.

-- Photos By James Kenney | Ap Photo

It appears the Tennessee Titans might go as far as Derrick Henry’s big-play ability can carry them in 2019.

Henry had another big day Sunday, rushing for 159 yards, including a 74-yard TD run, against his favorite victims, the Jacksonville Jaguars.

And as the 6-5 Titans try to hang in the AFC South race, beginning with a tough challenge Sunday in Indianapolis, it is Henry who is leading the charge and providing game-changing runs that have the entire team excited.

“It’s unbelievable,” says defensive tackle Jurrell Casey when talking about Henry’s ability to energize the entire Titans team. “The energy changes so much. I think everybody gets so much of a spark.

“When you see the offensive players making splash plays like that, it just makes the mindset of a defense that much hungrier. We go out there with the mindset that you can’t let the offense down.”

When you ask Henry about such things, he generally spouts clichés: “One play at a time” or “just doing my job.”

But even Henry has to admit he can flip Titans offense from mediocre to mercurial in an instant. Consider the 126 yards he put up in the third quarter alone against the Jaguars on Sunday.

“Did you see the sideline when I scored? I feel like it does – not to brag,” Henry said in a rare moment of candor. “I think we just feed off each other’s energy, and that just speaks volumes for us as a team.”

Earlier in the week, Henry’s offensive linemen spoke about what it’s like in the huddle when the big running back finds his groove – not just for a home run play, but when he grinds on teams for 5 to 10 yards a carry.

“You get real excited,” right tackle Jack Conklin explains. “When things go well, a lot of times it feels like things can’t go wrong, and it obviously brings the confidence up of everybody in the huddle.

“You have guys talking and guys encouraging, but a lot of times when you have a long run, that’s all the confidence you need.”

Big plays, like Henry’s 74-yard run that put the Titans up 21-3 early in the third quarter, are obviously a big boost. But the plays that keep the first downs coming really make a difference, left tackle Taylor Lewan says.

“The longer you’re out there, the more confident you feel,” he explains. “So I think confidence is huge. Anytime we have an opportunity to give our defense a rest and we go farther and farther, and obviously when we score points, it’s a big offensive swing.

“I’m a big proponent of saying, ‘Let’s keep going, let’s keep going.’ I would say it definitely helps.”

The Titans have struggled for much of the season to find any consistency and, at times, to keep Henry involved. Now, the entire offense is taking its cue from him.

“Derrick’s shown time and time again the whole year that he’s tough to bring down,” says quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who improved to 4-1 as a Titans starter. “He’s going to run through arm tackles. If you give him a crease, he’s going to gain yards. He also has the speed to finish and the strength to finish down the field.

“It’s a rare combination to find in a running back.”

The confidence of the offense will be severely tested Sunday in Indianapolis when the Titans try to keep their playoff hopes alive entering the season’s final month.

If Henry, who now has 991 yards rushing this season, can keep things going anywhere close to his recent production, Tennessee figures to have a chance.

Henry must know his value to the Titans, even if he isn’t overly vocal about his accolades.

“I love it, man,” Henry says. “I’m a team guy, so anytime I can help the team with anything I do on the field, I’m always happy.”

The Titans organization must soon decide how much it values Henry’s contributions. The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner is in the final year of his contract and could become a free agent if not signed by the Titans.