The Hydra vs. Henry

There are a lot of questions as to how someone could rush for 2,000 yards and not be a 99 rating in Madden NFL. But that is a video game. Let’s stick to reality. Derrick Henry is special. The Florida native has a kind heart, a good soul, which is a problem on the football field. In the offseason, if one were to encounter there Henry, he is easily approachable. A kind man was not afraid to spend a little money or take a photo or two. No one likes to be taken advantage of. Personally, he is a model citizen off the field and a decorated veteran on the field. Although his career got off to a slow start, he has most definitely made up for it in his time in the NFL. And five seasons, he has accumulated more than 5,860 yards rushing, and almost 700 yards receiving. But that itself lies the problem; maybe his team relies on him a little too much.

The Tennessee Titans have been a model of mediocrity for quite some time. Only making one Super Bowl appearance, and only two AFC championship games, the Tennessee Titans are in the middle of the world franchise, who relies on Blue-collar work to get the job done. Jeopardy question: Can you name the other running backs on the roster for the Tennessee Titans? Better question, how many yards have they accumulated since 2019? Exactly. His usage has gone up since they have found out that he is an unstoppable force in the running game. In 2020, he became only the sixth man to rush for over 2,000 yards. To be exact, he rushed for 2027 yards on 370+ carries, to average 5.4 yards a tuck. Since his career has gotten off to a slow start, one has to look at what he has done against his division. He has tortured the Houston Texans and has throttled the Jacksonville Jaguars multiple times. But there is one team in the division that stands up to him on a regular basis: the Indianapolis Colts. 

Last year, the Indianapolis Colts and the Tennessee Titans had a tied record. Tennessee won the division only because of a week one loss that the Indianapolis Colts suffered to the Jacksonville Jaguars; which ironically was the only victory that Jacksonville had last year. Both teams make the playoffs, and both teams were bounced out after the first round of play. Houston has stocked up on running backs this year, which won’t help with the roster that has a defense that can’t stop and nosebleed. Jacksonville has re-tooled and added Urban Meyer and better coaching. Not to mention the one to punch of Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne from Clemson. But no one is paying attention to the backfield in the horseshoe; which quite possibly be more formidable than the one-man wrecking crew of Derrick Henry.

The Indianapolis Colts have survived the retirement of Andrew Luck and the departure of Peyton Manning. By spending money and draft picks on a quarterback that can’t stay healthy, the quarterback position for the Indianapolis Colts could be uncertain this year. Carson Wentz can’t stay healthy, but the team’s success depends on his presence on the field. But the one thing that will remain consistent in Indianapolis, is the consistency of the running back position.
Jonathan Taylor came out smoking his rookie season with the Indianapolis Colts. The Thoroughbred running back out of Wisconsin accumulated 1,169 yards off of just 232 carries (5.0). He was also efficient out of the backfield; catching 36 of 39 receptions for 299 yards. In just one year he already has almost half of what Henry as a pass-catcher has amassed his entire career. His opportunity came when Marlon Mack went down with an injury Week 1 versus the Jacksonville Jaguars. Now, this shouldn’t be a question that he is their go-to back, that is only going to get better his second season.

Nyheim Hines is a change of pace back that has carved himself a role after his third-year performance. Hines delivered 380 yards on the ground was only 89 carries, but also delivered 482 yards, off of 65 receptions. 7.7 yards per reception is nothing to sneeze at by a running back coming out of the backfield. His versatility makes him an asset and a valuable weapon to the Indianapolis Colts offense. Seven touchdowns, off of just spare downs and opportunities due to the fact that Jonathan Taylor has eaten up most of the carries, is quite impressive. Hines has RB2 potential.

Then there is the true enigma in the Indianapolis Colts backfield, Marlon Mack. The fifth-year back decided to stay with Indianapolis, coming off of a gruesome injury to start the season in 2020. Before the injury, he was the go-to guy; 247 carries for 1,091 yards. Also, he has good hands; for his career, he has 55 receptions for 440 yards. Some might think that 2 receiving touchdowns isn’t enough to maintain stability in a three-headed backfield, but keep in mind that 20 touchdowns over basically 3 years show a model of consistency and improvement. He had eight rushing touchdowns last year. Who knows what he could have done if it wasn’t for the injury.

Here’s the main objective of the story. Indianapolis has three capable backs that together can outplay, outrun, and out catch the beast of Tennessee. What were to happen to Tennessee’s offense if 48.6% of their primary yards were taken away due to injury? Henry’s usage has gone up each and every year. He had 374 carries in 2020, but only 19 receptions. That might be able to explain why he was a 98, and not a 99 in the Madden ratings. Derrick Henry has proven to be the king of running backs, but sometimes three heads are better than one. So if you were an opposing enemy in the AFC South, who would you fear more, a three-headed backfield where anyone could explode, or a freight train that you know that if you stop, you have a chance to slow down their offense? The addition of Julio Jones should help the Tennessee offense, but some might think it’s only going to lead to more carries for Derrick Henry; due to the play-action pass, and the mediocrity of the defense. Heavy is the head that wears the crown; and as we all can see, the weight is about to get heavy for King Henry. What’s the chance that he can outperform the Cerebus in Indianapolis?