Can Derrick Henry top 2,000 again?


Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) gains yardage as he tries to get around Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Sidney Jones during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Only 8 players in NFL history have rushed for 2,000 yards in a single season, none of them did it a second time.

Can Titans star Derrick Henry be the first?

“I’m just going to enjoy these days, day by day” Henry said, “Go day by day, enjoy it while it’s here and take advantage of those opportunities.”

History is not on his side, especially in the 2021 season. Not only have the previous seven failed to get there, but it has largely been followed by a dramatic drop-off. Just look at the last four players who tried to go back to back, all four saw their yards per carry average drop by at least one full yard the next season.

Terrell Davis – Denver Broncos

1998 – 2008 Yards, 5.1 Yards Per Carry

1999 – 211 Yards, 3.1 Yards Per Carry

Jamal Lewis – Baltimore Ravens

2003 – 2066 Yards, 5.3 Yards Per Carry

2004 – 1006 Yards, 4.3 Yards Per Carry

Chris Johnson – Tennessee Titans

2009 – 2006 Yards, 5.6 Yards Per Carry

2010 – 1364 Yards, 4.3 Yards Per Carry

Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings

2012 – 2097 Yards, 6.0 Yards Per Carry

2013 – 1266 Yards, 4.5 Yards Per Carry

That is an average drop-off of 832 yards from season to season.

Extra attention from defenses is certainly part of it, but so is the prolific workload required to get there. Henry has topped 800 carries over the last two years including playoff games.

That is a lot. A real lot.

Titans head coach Mike Vrabel and his staff are already working in Training Camp to reduce his workload. “Training camp is one thing that is pretty easy to figure out,” Vrabel said, “but once you get into the season some of that stuff has got to be based on our conversations and how he feels and what he needs each and every week to get ready for the game. That may look one way in September and something completely different in November or December.”

Henry’s summer workout videos are almost legendary at this point. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” Henry said. He posts the jaw dropping videos on social media simply because people ask to see what he is doing. The important thing though is the work never stops and Henry always makes sure he is ready.

His teammates see it and the work is a big reason this has become “Henry’s Team”. Vrabel said Henry’s work ethic is always something he has admired, “how he maintains his routine, his workout routine, his lifting routine, his conditioning routine throughout the season. As soon as practice is over, he is in there on Friday doing whatever he needs to do to get himself mentally and physically prepared for the game. He understands that, and I have always said that. He is doing all these things in the off-season to prepare himself for training camp and the season and that is what pro football players are supposed to be doing.”

He is doing all of the right things, but are they enough to outrun Father Time for a guy who jokingly proclaimed himself “old” entering his sixth season. Eventually the carries add up, predicting when that happens is practically impossible, but historically this year could be Henry’s biggest challenge.

With back to back rushing titles Henry has already carved out a spot for himself in Titans and NFL history, but with the NFL’s first 17 game season he has a better chance than any of his predecessors to achieve what they all failed to do.

If Henry fails he says it will not be because of a lack of preparation, “that’s all I focus on is being better every day, working, working hard, competing, that’s all you can do.”

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