Rushing nearly 30 times per game on average is not normal for NFL running backs. With Derrick Henry, the word normal simply does not apply. The Tennessee Titans are facing life without Derrick Henry for the first time in multiple seasons following what may be a season-ending injury to the MVP hopeful.
Before the injury, Henry was averaging roughly 25 carries per game, 117 yards per game, and over four and a half yards per carry. These elite statistical totals led the Titans to an early 6-2 record. Following their close win over the Indianapolis Colts, the Titans were extremely concerned with the health of their all-star running back because of the amount of use he was getting.
Even during the matchup, the Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel contemplated resting Henry due to foot discomfort. Vrabel explained after the game that he made the decision to keep Henry in the game due to Henry’s own preference to continue playing.
“I think we’ve always done what’s best for the player … We never want to put a player in jeopardy to not be able to do his job or make anything worse,” Vrabel said.
Vrabel understands the massive toll this injury takes on the Titans’ offensive scheme, along with the importance of being ready for life without your top players.
“I know that he’ll be around our team as soon as he can. I know that it’s important to him. I know that’ll be important to our team,” Vrabel. “We’ll have to move on without him in the short term and not look back.”
In response to the news of Henry being forced out of football for what will likely be several months, the Titans signed veteran running back Adrian Peterson.
Peterson led eight years of smash-mouth dominance for the Vikings from 2007 to 2015, averaging well over 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns per season, even breaking the 2000-yard rushing total in 2012. Peterson is also fifth in the all-time rushing yards list.
More recently, Peterson has struggled to stay consistent with his final season being a 2020 stint with the Detroit Lions. Peterson tallied 604 rushing yards on 156 carries along with seven touchdowns.
After a year floating in the free agency market, Adrian Peterson looks to make a return to football with a team that has lately been dominant in rushing the football. While it is unknown whether Peterson will be able to fill the shoes of Henry, one thing is for sure: Vrabel is confident Peterson can get the job done.
“Go as hard as you can, take care of the football, try to learn the details of the play, play with great effort and don’t do dumb stuff to hurt the team,” Vrabel told Peterson after signing him to the active roster.
Vrabel also recognizes the dangers in potentially laying starting running back duties on a 36-year-old running back who hasn’t played a snap in over a year.
“We’ll have to work [Peterson & newly signed D’Onte Foreman] back into shape and put some pads on them and try to give them some contact and see if they can adjust to take care of the football,” Vrabel said.
No matter which running back on the Titans roster receives the largest workload in their upcoming matchup against the 7-1 Super Bowl favorite, the Los Angeles Rams, it is fair to say that points will not come nearly as easily for Tennessee until Derrick Henry returns.