Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry knows one direction – that is to move forward. After a rookie season that saw him learn the NFL game and play sparingly behind DeMarco Murray in the Titans backfield, the second-year player is committed to making his presence known in 2017.
Mark Inabinett of AL.com wrote a story on Henry’s desire to be even better this season compared to his rookie campaign.
“I feel like Year 1 you are experiencing and learning,” Henry said on Tuesday. “And in Year 2, it’s time to attack. You know everything, you went through the process and now it’s time to go. Put your foot on the pedal and don’t let up.”
Henry entered the NFL as a second-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft after setting SEC records for single-season rushing yards and touchdowns to capture the 2015 Heisman Trophy and lead Alabama to the CFP national championship.
The running back tandem with Murray was one of the best in the NFL last season and one of the reasons the Tennessee Titans are a favorite to win the AFC South this coming year. Marcus Mariota is on schedule with his recovery from a leg injury and the team has added more offensive weapons at wide receiver. All of this, including Henry’s plans, could make this a special season in Nashville.
As a rookie, Henry had 490 yards and five touchdowns on 110 rushing attempts and caught 13 passes for 137 yards. He backed up DeMarco Murray, who ran for 1,287 yards and nine touchdowns on 293 carries and caught 53 passes for 377 yards and three TDs to earn his third Pro Bowl invitation.
Henry and Murray have benefitted from the guidance of running backs coach Terry Robiskie, who has been a coach in the league since 1982.
“I think both of those guys did a great job for us last year,” Tennessee offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie said. “Obviously, DeMarco had a hell of a year, but I thought Derrick had a fantastic year. He came in as a rookie, and like I told him, ‘Freshmen sometimes in college don’t play.’
“But I thought he had a hell of a year. The Kansas City game (when Henry had nine carries for 58 yards and two touchdowns on Dec. 18), he went in there and did some great things for us early, and I think it will be the same thing. We’ll find ways to use both of those guys.”
Last year, head coach Mike Mularkey told the media there were plays designed for Henry and his strengths. Look for those plays to increase this year. Also, look for Henry to get more carries and more passes thrown his way.
Murray is still the lead runner in the Tennessee Titans offense, but Henry should see his role increase.
I had chance to interview Henry last summer while he was here in Jacksonville. He said he was learning the difference in playing on the college level and in the pros. He also said he was learning the Titans style of offense and was being used more to catch the football out of the backfield. In Inabinett’s story, the same continues. Henry is learning and growing as the offseason progresses.
“You’ve just got to stay ready,” Henry told the reporters gathered around his locker after practice. “Prepare like you’re the starter every day, and that’s one thing I do.”