The Tennessee Titans were back on the field today for Organized Team Activities, and for the first time all offseason second-year running back Derrick Henry broke his silence regarding his absence two weeks ago.
Henry confirmed that he could have handled things differently when he opted to miss voluntary workouts to finish his course load at the University of Alabama, stating that finishing school was a promise that he made to his late grandmother.
Henry told the media that he worked out every day while taking classes at Alabama, and by all accounts (including head coach Mike Mularkey and running backs coach Sylvester Croom) he reported to the facility in phenomenal shape. It was obvious that Henry handled the dual workload effectively.
And speaking of workloads…it’s time for the Titans to increase his on the field in 2017.
Yes, DeMarco Murray is the unquestioned starting running back. He is still in his prime and has shown no signs of slowing down after finishing third in the league in rushing last season.
Murray had far more carries than Henry last season (293-110), but given the playoff race the Titans were in and the zone that Murray was in makes it understandable.
However, something closer to an equal split this year between Murray and Henry should benefit both parties involved, and the offense overall.
For starters, Murray is 29 and entering his seventh season. The last three seasons alone he toted the rock 878 times. And that’s not even counting receptions. For the Titans to maximize Murray’s prime it would behoove them to taper back his touches in 2017.
Henry, for what it’s worth, filled in admirably for Murray during spot duty last season. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry and over 10 yards per reception as a rookie backup. Murray, by comparison, averaged 4.4 yards per carry and 7.1 yards per reception in 2016.
Numbers aside, the last time that Tennessee used an equal timeshare at running back they made the playoffs.
In 2008 the Titans had Smash and Dash…LenDale White and rookie sensation Chris Johnson. While Johnson was clearly the better back, the two split their carries nearly down the middle (Johnson 251 attempts, White 200 attempts).
The two combined for over 2,000 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns that season, and were the catalyst for the team’s 10-0 start and best record in the AFC (13-3).
With the new smash mouth identity approach, Thunder and Thunder could easily eclipse those numbers behind a much-improved offensive line.
The only casualty to this approach would be Murray’s ego, but if he has a team-first mentality then Henry could actually extend his career by shaving an additional 70-80 hits off his body.
What a conundrum the Titans find themselves in…an established Pro bowl veteran back and a young bull dying to make his own mark…both playing for a team that prides themselves on punishing teams at the line of scrimmage with the run.
Henry’s quote about his mindset this year should be music to the Titans’ ears…
“I feel like year one you are experiencing and learning, and in year two it is time to attack. You know everything, you went through the process and now it is time to go. Put your foot on the pedal and don’t let up.”
Now who wants to see a man with his physical stature, hunger, and mentality subbing in for Murray after he reeled off a 25 yard gain?
And vice versa for that matter.