You have to wonder if Derrick Henry has had the Paul Simon song "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" running through his mind lately, or if the Tennessee Titans have been playing it nearly non-stop of late.
Julio Jones can have that effect on teammates, even if the song was published in 1972.
“We are ready to see what we can do together,” Henry said last week before the Titans wrapped up minicamp. “We are trying to put it all together. These guys have been working hard, building chemistry, and pushing each other.”
Although Henry and Jones were both outstanding players at Alabama, they've never played together, not even during a Pro Bowl.
Jones helped lead the Crimson Tide to an undefeated season and 2009 national championship en route to being the sixth-overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Henry joined Alabama in 2013, and won both a national title and the Heisman Trophy in 2015.
It seems like a given that they'll work well together, but they still have to go through the process of working together in the same offense, and getting acclimated to one another.
“My vision for this offense is that we are a disciplined, high effort, high energy and sound football team,” Titans offensive coordinator Todd Downing said. “The rest of it is going to fall into place. …
"Our goal is to be better each day that they are out there.”
Per the FanNation site AllTitans, the recent acquisition of Jones from the Atlanta Falcons provides an intriguing wrinkle for Henry especially. The two-time NFL rushing champion became just the eighth player in NFL history to rush for more than 2,000 yards last season.
With Jones and A.J. Brown at wide receiver, teams can’t sell out to stop the run, or at least have to think twice about trying to load the box.
“Who are they going to try to take away?” Brown said. “I think it starts in the backfield. The guy in the backfield demands all the attention first. You got to play us honest.”
The fewer bodies in Henry's immediate path, the less resistance he faces during his first few steps. Once he gets his 6-foot-3, 249-pound frame rolling, the running back has shown he can be extremely difficult to stop — especially as the defenses start to wear down.
For now, he doesn’t want to get too ahead of himself, though.
“He’s a dynamic player. One of, if not the best, receivers in this league,” Henry said. “I don’t want to get into all the boxes and different types of scenarios. I think we just try to put it all together while we are here. Just try to work and make each other better each and every day.
“He likes to work hard. I like to work hard. That’s all we are trying to bring to the table.”
Mix in quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and it's easy to see why Titans fans are so excited about the team's potential.
The challenge now is to see how Jones fits.
“He’s just a great guy to have around,” Henry said. “We both know each other’s mindset and what we want to do. He’s a great asset for this team for everybody to learn from.”
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