Alabama in the Pros

Derrick Henry to start for Titans versus Patriots, could be the guy moving forward

George Walker IV/The Tennessean - USA TODAY Sports

Before last week’s victory over Kansas City, it had been nine consecutive seasons since the Tennessee Titans made an appearance in the NFL playoffs. 

When he received a chance to shine in the absence of DeMarco Murray (knee), former Alabama running back Derrick Henry showed fans the model he displayed throughout the 2015 season with the Crimson Tide – as he collected 28 touchdowns. 

He pounded the Chiefs’ defense for 156 yards on 23 carries, including a 35-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that cut Kansas City’s lead to 21-17. Henry averaged 6.8 yards per attempt, en route to helping the Titans earn a 22-21 comeback win on the road.  

Tennessee has an AFC Divisional playoff game versus New England on Saturday at Gillette Stadium at Foxborough, Mass., and per ESPN NFL insider Ian Rapoport, Henry will be the starter at running back. 

However, the Patriots’ rush defense has not been reliable under coordinator Matt Patricia. Despite a 13-3 record, New England is 20th in the league in rush defense (1,836 yards allowed, 114.8 ypg) and it has yet to face a ball carrier of Henry’s stature. 

The 6-foot-3, 247-pounder not only runs over people, but also possesses the speed to out run defenders in his push to the end zone. Should the Titans pull out an upset, it will start with head coach Mike Mularkey getting Henry involved early and limiting action for Tom Brady. 

He became the third player in Houston Oilers/Titans history to total 100 yards rushing in a playoff game, while having three 100-yard outings all season (regular season, playoffs). 

With people enjoying the product that he is, Rapoport also states that Tennessee could be turning to Henry as its No. 1 back moving forward. Murray turns 30 next month and is looking at a $6.5 million salary, if he chooses to return next year. According to Rapoport, he said the Titans ‘would have no dead money’ if it decides to cut Murray and that the franchise is ‘ready to pass the torch.’ 

Currently, Henry leads the team with 744 yards rushing.  

Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

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