After leading the NFL in rushing yards in 2019, Derrick Henry will be a marked man this season. Defensive coordinators across the league will hone in on strategies to stop, or at least contain, the Tennessee Titans’ feature back throughout the 2020 campaign.

While Henry displayed his dominance during the back half of the schedule last year, the Titans will be looking for the explosive runner to put his impressive off-season training to use immediately, giving the team a full arsenal at the start of the year.

Henry has totaled 13 games in which he has rushed for 100 yards or more. He did most of his damage last season when he eclipsed triple digits six times in the regular season and twice in the playoffs.

There is no question that Henry seems to play his best when the stakes are high, but it should be noted that on just two occasions has the 25-year-old hit the century mark before Week 10.

These early 100 yard-games occurred once during Week 6 in 2017 and last season in Week 4 against the Atlanta Falcons. There are, no doubt, many factors that have contributed to his seasonal slow starts: shaky offensive line play, an unreliable passing game, and splitting carries in the backfield in his earlier years, to name a few. No matter how you want to slice it, Henry has simply not been able to get it going early on in the season as he enters his fifth season with the Titans.

Week One presents an entirely different challenge as the Titans head to Denver looking for revenge against the Broncos. The game will be held inside of Mile High Stadium, which stands 5,280 feet above sea level. The high altitude definitely gives the home team the advantage, especially early on in the season when players’ conditioning levels are typically not where they will be mid to late season.

Henry has squared off against the Broncos defense on two occasions. The Titans are 1-1 in those outings with Henry mustering up a measly 72 yards and 27 carries. In last year’s abysmal 16-0 shutout loss on the road in Denver, the offense sputtered under the control of Marcus Mariota in what would end up being his last game starting under center for the Titans. Henry was unable to produce on the ground partly due to the fact the Broncos were showing no respect for the Titans’ passing attack after Mariota exited the contest completing only 7 of his 18 attempts for 63 yards and two interceptions. Henry rushed for only 28 yards on 15 rushes.

The Titans enter 2020 with a much different offense than what Denver saw a year ago. Playmakers on the outside will force the Broncos’ defense to respect Ryan Tannehill’s arm in turn creating more opportunities for big plays on the ground through Henry.

After an impressive offseason from General Manager Jon Robinson, the Titans have raised eyebrows and expectations. In order for the team to hit that coveted 10-win mark, they will need Derrick Henry to show up early and often rather than wait for must-win circumstances to perform. If he can do that, it would also alleviate much of the stress that Titans fans always seem to carry as each season winds down.


Featured image courtesy of James Kenney/Associated Press