Running back Derrick Henry can carry Titans to playoffs

Running back Derrick Henry graded well in PFN's Offensive Share Metric after a Week 10 display that showed he can carry the Titans to the playoffs.

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry played a pivotal role in the stunning victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 10, producing a dominant performance defined by a spectacular long touchdown run in the third quarter.

While some will point to the change from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill at quarterback as the primary reason for the Titans winning three of their last four, the reality is Tennessee would not have claimed a 35-32 win if not for Henry’s success on the ground.

Henry rushed for a massive 188 yards and scored two touchdowns, denying Patrick Mahomes a winning return to action. The former Alabama star finished Week 10 with the second-highest Pro Football Network Offensive Share Metric (OSM) grade among running backs. OSM uses the NFL’s NextGen Stats and a variety of algorithms to assess a player’s contribution to his team by looking at the areas only he can control.

For Week 10, Henry earned a ‘Good’ score of 22.44. Aside from Jamaal Williams of the Green Bay Packers, no running back was more responsible for his team’s production than Henry.

The bulk of Henry’s yardage came on a 68-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that gave the Titans their second lead of the game. With the long score, Tennessee responded swiftly and superbly to a touchdown from Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill.

When a back of Henry’s 6’3″ and 247-pound frame rips off a long touchdown run, it is easy to expect it to come as a result of him overpowering a defense after wearing it down in bruising fashion.

An incredible bulldozing 99-yard run against the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2018 headlines Henry’s pro resume. However, the first of his two scores versus Kansas City was instead of a product of his underrated lateral quickness and intelligence as a runner.

Considerably more than a sheer power back, Henry changes direction with impressive smoothness, and he displayed that fluidity on this eight-yard run in the first quarter.

Including his long touchdown, Henry had four runs that went for double-digit yardage. His first was a 12-yarder in the second quarter on which he demonstrated his ability to open running lanes by manipulating defenders, getting Anthony Hitchens to overcommit through intelligent use of his footwork.

An eight-yard run in the first quarter and a 12-yarder in the second will not live long in the memories of most fans. However, they each foreshadowed Henry’s most significant contribution to a one-possession game. On his 68-yard touchdown, the Chiefs defense flowed to the right, and Henry made sure they paid the price for committing to doing so as he used his lateral quickness to devastating effect.

After bursting into the open field, Henry, according to NextGen Stats, reached a speed of 21.27mph. Only Hill and Chiefs rookie receiver Mecole Hardman carried the ball at a higher speed in Week 10.

Henry’s varied skill set belies the typical expectations of a running back with his build, and his fluidity, speed, and ability to read the defenses have played a crucial role in keeping the Titans very much in the hunt in the AFC South. Tennessee has a manageable schedule down the stretch and, while his versatility may surprise some, should he continue to perform as he did in Week 10, it will be no shock if he carries the Titans to the playoffs.

Nicholas McGee is a film room writer for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter @nicholasmcgee24.

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