The Tennessee Titans finally look ready to give Derrick Henry a full workload.
For nearly his entire career the Tennessee Titans seemed comfortable letting Derrick Henry be the backup or a co-starter at running back.
Then came December of 2018 where Henry put on a historic stretch of games and gave the banged up Titans offense some much needed direction. It doesn’t get talked about a lot, but during that run he capped off a season where he finished 3rd in rushing TDs.
Towards the end of 2018 it all seemed to click for Henry who switched up his scores between bruising goal line runs to 99-yard highlight reels. He suddenly looked like he was back at Alabama and he was matching up against Auburn.
Bleacher Report came out with their predictions for leaders in the major categories, including rushing touchdowns. So, did Henry end up getting the crown and being projected as the next TD leader?
Well…no. But, he did end up as the runner-up behind James Connor who they predicted will have 16 touchdowns, saying:
"“In 2018, Conner tied Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry for third in rushing touchdowns (12). Without wide receiver Antonio Brown, who recorded 15 touchdowns last year, the Steelers may look to pound the ball when they’re in striking distance.”"
That is a great point, but my counterpoint would be that the Pittsburgh Steelers only had one rushing touchdown last year by anyone other than James Connor of Ben Roethlisberger. With a deep group of wide receivers, I don’t know that the Steelers will change up their gameplan at all in the redzone.
What that means is that, if Connor scored 12 of 13 RB rush TDs and the Steelers still play their same style of offense then what is his realistic upside? 13 TDs?
The same thing could be said of Derrick Henry who had the same exact situation 12 of 13 rushing TDs not by a QB.
Here is the difference: the Steelers can’t realistically play more offensive snaps in 2019 which is something the Titans are very likely to do.
Wait…what? Don’t worry I’ll explain:
The Steelers ran the 4th most plays per game in the NFL where the Tennessee Titans ran the 3rd fewest. So in terms of pure upside, the Titans are probably going to regress to the mean just like the Steelers will.
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For the Steelers, that means 60 fewer snaps over the course of the season and it means 60 more for the Titans. So simple math says that if you have two players that score 92.3% of their team’s (non-QB) rushing touchdowns, the one who was most efficient in those snaps will do better with more volume.
Connor is a really good choice and he does have a lot around him to make this prediction come true. However, you can definitely make an argument for the Henry based on the volume change that both teams should see.
This is a mix of predictive analytics and common sense, but to me if those are the two candidates it comes down to, then I would lead towards the Tennessee Titans Derrick Henry leading the league next year.