Stopping Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry will not just be a tough task for the Lions. It is a tough task for every team in the league.
Henry is awesome.
The 2019 NFL rushing champion is well on his way to capturing the honor for the second straight year, and if he keeps running the way he is, he is going to run straight to Canton someday.
I went back, and watched all 329 of Henry’s plays this season and simply put, he looks like a man amongst boys. This is something only the greats can do -- guys like Lawrence Taylor, Randy Moss, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders.
This is the first time I have ever had the honor of sitting down and evaluating Henry. It became very clear to me very quickly that he is special.
If I had to compare him to someone in my lifetime, I would say he reminds me a lot of Pro Football Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson -- only with more power.
He can run inside and outside, and he can catch the ball, too.
He is like a human-battering ram. He just keeps pounding and pounding.
Henry tends to wear down and outlast defenses. He just keeps pounding it between the tackles. But, if a defense gives him even the slightest of creases, he is gone.
He shows an almost supernatural level of resilience, which is further demonstrated statistically by the fact that his yards-per-carry average has been going up each and every season since he came into the league. He is currently averaging a strong 5.2 yards per carry.
As NFL on Fox game analyst Troy Aikman has pointed out, at Henry's weight, he outweighs a lot of linebackers at the second level of a defense.
He tends to simply wear defenders down.
I am giving Henry the distinction of the highest grade I have given anyone in 2020.
#22 Derrick Henry - 6-foot-3, 238 pounds
Grade: A+ (Blue-chip player and elite)
Film: 9/14 vs. DEN, 9/20 vs. JAX, 9/27 vs. MIN, 10/13 vs. BUF, 10/18 vs. HOU, 10/25 vs. PIT, 11/1 vs. CIN, 11/18 vs. CHI, 11/12 vs. IND, 11/22 vs. BAL, 11/29 vs. IND, 12/6 vs. CLE and 12/13 vs. JAX.
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Rare mix of awesome size, speed, power, vision and balance. Sets up in single-back look. Prototypical downhill runner. An upright runner who sees the field and sees holes very well. Patient. Accelerates very quickly upfield. Has burst and second gear. Smooth acceleration. Explosive, sudden and violent runner. Able to plant foot in the ground and go. Powerful runner who is able to break tackles. Extremely strong and signature stiff-arm. Able to also spin out of potential tackles. Once he gets going, he is like a gliding, human bowling ball. Relentless. Keeps pounding it until he breaks one. A home-run hitter who is a threat to score each and every time he touches the ball. Has a nose for the end zone. It is just a matter of time.
Has the necessary playing speed to hit perimeters and turn it upfield, too, on the outside. Excels running outside. Very productive outside the tackles. Above-average hands shown out of the backfield. Dependable safety valve for the quarterback. Dual-threat ability. Can beat teams running or catching. Awesome player who was fun to watch, but not fun to play against. Makes it look easy.
Henry is an absolute handful for every defense, and he is coming off a 215-yard rushing performance last week against Jacksonville.
The only thing that seems to work against him is aggressively shooting the gaps and shutting him down near or preferably behind the line of scrimmage.
Several defenses have shown this season he can be stopped some of the time when they get to him before he gets going.
If the Lions aggressively commit in that fashion to stopping him, they have a real chance. They must commit to stacking the box with eight or nine defenders and attack the line of scrimmage like never before.
This is not another one of those games where the safeties can just sit back and wait until Henry reaches their level way downfield, unless they want tire marks left on their jerseys.
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