There's no replacing Derrick Henry, but Tennessee Titans must try | Estes
INDIANAPOLIS – Well, that's a quick end to such a promising Tennessee Titans season.
That’s what you’re thinking, isn’t it? How could you not?
Derrick Henry is one of two players — Ryan Tannehill being the other — that the Titans can't afford to be without long-term and be the same team, a team that until Monday had growing hopes to contend for the NFL’s big prizes this season.
For the 6-2 Titans, who'd won four in a row and started the week No. 1 in the AFC, Monday morning’s news of Henry’s potentially season-ending foot injury was a cruelly devastating blow.
I’m sorry, Titans fans. There’s just no other way to say it. There’s not another Henry, a bona fide leader who was on pace to become the first two-time 2,000-yard rusher in NFL history. There’s no replacing that guy and everything he means to his team.
But the Titans are going to have to try.
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They’ll have to transform their identity as a run-heavy offense into one that’ll lean on Tannehill and the passing game and A.J. Brown and Julio Jones.
"We're going to have to be creative, and we're going to have to figure out answers," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said.
They’ll have to move quickly to make sure third-down specialist Jeremy McNichols isn’t the featured option in a backfield that unfortunately had Darrynton Evans go back on injured reserve last week.
OK, it’s bad. Real bad.
So what now?
Are there small traces of a silver lining for the Titans? Yes. One is in the timing. This happened just before the NFL’s trade deadline Tuesday, which allows the Titans to move quickly to try to land a Melvin Gordon or Marlon Mack or Ronald Jones or David Johnson or some other potentially available running back to step into the largest shoes in the NFL.
The Titans reportedly signed 36-year-old Adrian Peterson to the practice squad Monday.
None of these running backs will be Henry, of course.
Henry has joked about his bumps and bruises after games, saying that he hides it well. That’s certainly true. He had 28 carries against the Colts on Sunday. Presumably, much of that was after he broke his foot.
While he clearly wasn’t himself, Henry toughed it out anyway. In doing so, his presence drew attention from the Colts and helped Brown record 10 catches for 155 receiving yards and lead the Titans to an important comeback victory in overtime.
That's normal for Henry. He has been so relentlessly durable that a serious injury just hasn’t felt possible, because it’d finally be the thing to prove how human he really is after all.
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During Sunday's game, Henry fumbled for the first time this season. It happened on his 199th carry. Ridiculous.
The Titans were deploying him at a rate far higher than any other running back in the league. Too much, you’d think. And maybe so. But it’s Derrick Henry. I’d long ago stopped assuming what he couldn’t do.
Best to keep that in mind this time, too.
Accordingly, Vrabel didn't rule Henry out for the season. The Titans coach didn't guarantee anything, but he did say Monday that "there is absolutely a chance" Henry could return this season.
"If anybody can come back," Vrabel said, "I guess it would be Derrick."
I wouldn’t bet against Henry.
I’m not sure I’d start betting against the Titans yet, either, even though their odds in 2021 are a lot longer Monday morning than they were Sunday night.
Reach Gentry Estes at email@example.com and on Twitter @Gentry_Estes.