Less Derrick Henry Might be the Biggest Key to Success for the Tennessee Titans

Tennessee Titans v New Orleans Saints
Tennessee Titans v New Orleans Saints / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

When you consider the concerns of the Tennessee Titans fan base and the outcome on the field, it isn't hyperbole to say that Week 2 could not have gone better for the Tennessee Titans.

Ryan Tannehill lit the Los Angeles Chargers secondary on fire with explosive plays and efficient passing all throughout the day, and the defense was able to get off the field in the biggest moments, resulting in the first Titans win in 303 days.

Mike Vrabel and the Titans need to build off of this huge OT win in Week 3 versus the Cleveland Browns: a stout defensive unit and an offense still finding its footing, now without the presence of Nick Chubb.

The biggest key to success for Tennessee in this game is running the ball more effectively, and to the dismay of many Titans fans, that may mean less Derrick Henry.

Despite such an efficient day for the offense overall in Week 2, Henry struggled to be productive, averaging a miniscule 3.2 yards per carry on 25 attempts. Although Henry is still a valuable weapon for the Tennessee Titans, it is indisputable that he is showing some signs of decline.

On the contrary, rookie RB Tyjae Spears has been nothing short of explosive, averaging a ridiculous 6.9 yards per attempt on just 11 carries for the year.

If Offensive Coordinator Tim Kelly can get Tyjae Spears closer to half of the team's total carries in week 3, we may see a much more productive run game.

The other scheme change I’d like to see is the Titans line up in more 2RB sets with both Henry and Spears on the field. 

Henry demands one of the highest stacked box percentages of any back in the NFL, leading the league with 38.2% in 2022, and is a highly graded blocker on passing downs. Even with his physical decline, Henry’s presence alone is a huge asset to the Titans' passing game on early downs, opening up more space for the receivers with the threat of the run and potential play action.

Kelly has done a great job calling the offense so far, but he needs to utilize more 2RB sets; it could allow both backs — two of the Tennessee Titans best offensive weapons — to get more involved in the running and passing game.

To this point, Spears has been relatively uninvolved as a receiver. In two games he only has 3 receptions for 7 yards, which is surprising considering the role that everyone thought he would occupy. Kelly should aim to get the ball in the hands of his best playmakers, dialing up more screens and wheel routes for Spears, who nearly had a huge reception in Week 1 if not for a poorly placed throw by Ryan Tannehill.

As long as Henry is on the team, he will be a focal point of the Tennessee Titans offense. With a complentary back as strong as Spears, though, it is crucial to try and get him more and more touches.

With 1st-round guard Peter Skoronski potentially returning this week, Spears and Henry should have even better running lanes to work with this week. The running game is going to be crucial because every successful rush alleviates some of the impact Myles Garrett can have as a pass rusher.

If Kelly and Vrabel can really dial in the running game this week, they should be able to play classic Tennessee Titans football: controlling the clock, avoiding turnovers, and relying on a strong defensive front to outclass a vulnerable Browns offense. If we can do that effectively, expect a big Titans win in Cleveland.