Tennessee Titans issues continue to put more on Derrick Henry's shoulders

2023 NFL Pro Bowl Games - Skills Competitions
2023 NFL Pro Bowl Games - Skills Competitions / Michael Owens/GettyImages

For decades the Tennessee Titans have been a team built around running the ball early and often, and every offseason incident ensures that they stay that way in 2023.

Derrick Henry is the best runner of his generation and no one can hold a candle to what he did at his peak. Over his career, he has had the unique ability early in games to wear down opponents with his physicality and then to switch to a different gear late in games by ripping off long 50+ yard runs.

This offseason the Titans committed to building up the talent around him to help him thrive in the hopes of finding out whether he is still capable of being the focal point of this offense.

2023 is a contract year for Henry, and as he gets older, questions about his future with the team pop up more and more.

On one hand, it is impossible to picture what the Tennessee Titans would look like without Derrick Henry. Sure, they missed him for the bulk of 2021, but fans knew that he was coming back at some point and each week there was a new story about his progress so it never felt like he was truly gone.

Then again, considering his cost, his age, and the rumors of a new offense that might not lean on the running game so much, there was a chance that this would be the perfect time to focus more on maximizing the time Henry has left by making him more efficient. After that, you could evaluate what that looked like and make a decision about the future.

Unfortunately, I'm concerned that every offseason incident is pushing the Tennessee Titans back toward what they have done for so long.

Why this offseason has added stress to Derrick Henry

Starting at the running back position, the Hassan Haskins off-the-field incident could lead to him ultimatley being fired.

Aside from being a running back, Haskins was primarily a special teams player for the Titans who covered kicks and punts while also being the kick returner. If Haskins is cut, that means that the most likely candidates to replace him as the return man are the two most dynamic offensive players on the Titans' roster in Kyle Philips and Tyjae Spears.

While losing Haskins wouldn't directly put more on Derrick Henry's shoulders, more reps for Spears on special teams could mean fewer reps for him at running back.

The bigger issue is the Nicholas Petit-Frere suspension. While I think there is a way to use this suspension as a way to make the team better in the short-term and in the long-term, the Titans would have to actually make the moves they needed to make for that to happen.

Last year in his postseason wrap-up press conference, Mike Vrabel repeatedly harped on the importance of protecting the quarterback. As it stands right now, having an offensive line that is heading into the season without one of their starters isn't a great endorsement of their ability to keep Ryan Tannehill upright.

Historically, it is easier to run block than to pass block, and if the Tennessee Titans have to put a natural guard at right tackle for six weeks, it could lead to even more runs than normal in order to keep him from being on an island with good pass rushers.

The Tennessee Titans spent an entire offseason almost completely devoted to retooling the offense, and they did get better. However, just like last season, you can only play with what you have, and if the Tennessee Titans continue to lose people they won't have any option but to force the ball to their most proven skill position player.