Enjoy Derrick Henry’s High-Mileage Fun. History Shows It’s Unsustainable.


Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry is the last American muscle car. He’s huge, fast, powerful, a little intimidating and undeniably retro-cool. But he’s not very practical, and despite appearances, he’s probably not built to last.

Henry rushed for 2,027 yards this season, the fifth-highest total in N.F.L. history. He became the second running back to eclipse 2,000 rushing yards since Chris Johnson of the Titans in 2009 and Adrian Peterson in 2012, and is just the eighth player in league history to reach that milestone. Henry led or tied for the lead in rushes, yards and rushing touchdowns for the second consecutive season in 2020.

Henry’s accomplishments become even more remarkable on closer examination. He rushed for 1,268 yards on first downs alone; that production by itself would have allowed him to finish third in the N.F.L. in total rushing yards. Henry ran for 710 yards in his final four games, including 250 yards as the Titans clinched the A.F.C. South with a 41-38 victory over the Houston Texans, reinforcing his reputation for getting stronger as the season wears on. Pro Football Focus credits Henry with a league-high 77 eluded tackles on running plays; Henry “eludes” most tacklers by tossing them out of the saloon like the hero of a wild West serial, but that still counts.

A similar performance this year could vault the Titans into the Super Bowl and Henry onto a short list of all-time legends.

(The fact that usage declined at the same time that the Curse of 370 gained exposure is hardly a coincidence. N.F.L. decision makers act like high school tough guys when it comes to analytics, shouting “Math is for nerds!” at news conferences, then whispering asks for all the test answers.)

Henry’s rugged style only compounds concerns about his workload. Most modern running backs double as receivers, allowing them to work the sidelines and absorb fewer hits against smaller defenders. Henry hammers the middle of the field like a 1970s running back, turning every Sunday into a demolition derby. It’s a refreshing change of pace in a league that has strayed far from its muddy roots, and Henry certainly catches some defenders off guard by opting to run straight through them instead of around them. But between the carries and the collisions, Henry has voided the terms of his service warranty and is starting to tempt fate.

Henry must do whatever it takes to muscle the Titans way into the Super Bowl this year, because history warns that they will not get many more chances.



Sahred From Source link Sports

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