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Henry: 'The Sky's Not Falling'

The two-time NFL rushing champion is confident that the Tennessee Titans can get the run game going and can start to win games.

NASHVILLE – Derrick Henry concedes that things could be better.

From his vantage point, though, they are not nearly as bad as many others think with the Tennessee Titans at 0-2 and their vaunted run game near the bottom of the league rankings in total yards and yards per carry.

“It’s never a good feeling when you’re 0-2,” Henry said Thursday. “You definitely want to win – that’s why you play this game. But the sky’s not falling. We’re still focused. It’s only Week 2. It’s early in the season. It’s a long season. So, we’re just continuing to work and working to improve every day.”

The two-time NFL rushing champion traditionally has been better late in the year than he is at the beginning. Yet this is the first time since he has entered the NFL that Tennessee has rushed for fewer than 200 yards in its first two games. The previous low in that regard was 203 in 2016, Henry’s rookie season. The high-water mark came in 2021 when the offense had 298 rushing yards in the first two weeks.

The Titans enter Week 3 of this season with 173 rushing yards, tied for 24th in the league. Their average of 3.3 per attempt also is their worst at this point of the season since Henry has been part of their ground game and is 30th among the league’s 32 teams.

“I think we all know what we need to do,” Henry said. “We know it hasn’t been to our standard and the success we’ve had in the past. We have to be better. We all know that. We need to have a sense of urgency, and that’s what we’re all focused on.”

No one can say that they haven’t tried. Only 11 teams have run the ball more often through the first two games, and all but two of them (Atlanta and Cincinnati) have at least one victory.

“We have a lot of confidence in our run game,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “We have a lot of confidence in our runner. We just have to make sure now that we're all on the same page, that we're blocking things the right way, that we're getting to the right guys and that the quarterback is getting us in the right play. Then once we do that, I think we are all going to start to see the plays that can complement each other.”

And allow Henry to do what he does best, which is wear down defenses with consistent gains and then make them pay with long runs. Of his 34 runs this season, only one has gone for 10-plus yards, and he has averaged just 2.64 yards after contact, well below his career average of 3.7.

As a result, Henry is off to his worst start since 2018, a season in which he split the workload with Dion Lewis. Before that, he was part of a backfield-by-committee with Demarco Murray for two seasons. In 2020, for example, Henry had more rushing yards in the opener at Denver (116) than he has in this season’s first two outings. Last season he rolled up 182 in a Week 2 victory at Seattle.

A year-by-year look at Derrick Henry’s rushing totals through the first two games of the season:

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• 2016: 14 rushes, 43 yards, 0 TDs

• 2017: 20 rushes, 117 yards, 1 TD

• 2018: 28 rushes, 82 yards, 0 TDs

• 2019: 34 rushes, 166 yards, 2 TDs

• 2020: 56 rushes, 200 yards, 0 TDs

• 2021: 52 rushes, 240 yards, 3 TDs

• 2022: 34 rushes, 107 yards, 1 TDs

There currently are 18 players, including one quarterback (Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson) with more rushing yards than Henry thus far in 2022. And of the league’s top 20, only one, Cincinnati’s Joe Mixon, has averaged fewer yards per carry than Henry at 3.1.

So, it is no surprise Tennessee is 0-2 given what he has meant to the franchise’s success. The Titans are 22-3 when he rushes for 100 yards or more and 29-5 under Vrabel when they run it 30 times or more.

They have shown they still are willing to run it early and often. Now, they must show they can do so effectively.

“We’re definitely motivated,” Henry said. “It’s a grown-man business, though. Our approach is always the same – come out here and get better and get ready for Sunday.

“… We know we’ll be fine. Just stay with it. We know we’ve got the men in this building that will get it done.”