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A Pair of Hall of Fame Running Backs Ponder What Could be Down the Road for Titans RB Derrick Henry


NASHVILLE – Derrick Henry led the NFL in rushing in 2019, and he put the Titans on his back during a memorable playoff run.

With back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, the Titans running back appears to be picking up steam.

It's caused Titans fans – and a few Hall of Famers – to wonder what could be in store.

"If you watch him for the next couple of years, if he is still on the same trajectory, I mean you have to start saying you're looking at a future Hall of Famer with the way he's playing," Hall of Fame running back Terrell Davis said of Henry.

"Obviously in this game, you pray and you hope, that you can maintain health – that's the biggest question for him. But it's not a matter of talent with him, it's a matter of can he stay healthy the next couple of years and if he can do that, watch out."

Henry was named second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press, and he was selected to his first career Pro Bowl, after leading the NFL with a career-best 1,540 rushing yards on 303 carries. Henry ranked third in NFL with 18 total touchdowns, and he ranked second in the AFC and fourth in the NFL with 1,746 yards from scrimmage. He was named the Fex Ex Ground Player of the Year.

Davis, who ran for 7,607 yards during his playing career with the Broncos, served as the AFC captain at the Pro Bowl, when he spent some time around Henry, who has 3,833 rushing yards and 38 touchdowns in his first two NFL seasons.

"Impressive, impressive, impressive," Davis said of Henry. "I think what I am most astonished by … is the fact the guy is 6-3, 250 pounds and he has these traits – I've never seen anybody have more explosive plays for a guy that size. And when you watch him run, it is not like he is shaking and baking, but he has a great sense of awareness and he has a great football feel for running the ball. You just can't teach that. He has a God-given sense for where bodies are, how to get through certain holes, patience, explosiveness, being able to get more than what a play is called for.

"And the thing about Derrick is he makes everybody around him better, from the o-line to the quarterback to the receivers. I know if I am going to battle with that guy, we have a chance every game."

Emmitt Smith, a Hall of Famer who is the NFL's all-time leading rusher with 18,355 yards, said from Super Bowl LIV he's a big fan of Henry.

The Titans now have to find a way to help Henry sustain the success, Smith said.

Henry was the only running back in the NFL to average more than 100 rushing yards per game (102.7) this season. From Weeks 10-13, he joined Pro Football Hall of Famers Jim Brown (1985), Eric Dickerson (1984) and O.J. Simpson (1976), as well as Adrian Peterson (2012) as the only players to record at least 145 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in three consecutive games in NFL history.

In the postseason, Henry set a franchise playoff record with 182 rushing yards at New England (1/4/20) before resetting it with 195 rushing yards at Baltimore (1/11/20). Henry gained 69 yards on 19 carries in the AFC title game loss at Kansas City.

"He was outstanding," Smith said of Henry. "He had a heck of a year this year. It was awesome to see him put the Titans on his shoulders and carry them throughout the playoffs like he did. It was awesome, and it's the thing that every running back and every team needs.

"His consistency, doing it again next year and going further, that is what I am looking for. … Football is not easy. Teams spend a whole offseason designing defenses to stop what you did best, and how you conquer that is a mark of a great football player and a great offensive coordinator. So obviously Derrick needs help, because most teams did not respect the pass as much as they should have. But he did what he needed to do, and with a passing game he could do more."

A look back at RB Derrick Henry's 2019 Pro Bowl season that saw him rush 303 times for an NFL-leading 1,540 yards (5.1-yard avg.) and 16 touchdowns. (Photos: Donald Page)

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