Sports

The Titans should be worried about the decline of Derrick Henry


Derrick Henry is grilled.

Don’t act like you don’t already think so. Also, don’t act like you’re surprised to hear that from Football Outsiders, the pioneers of the 370 curse.

Henry is two years away from a 378-carry, 2,027-yard season for the Tennessee Titans that was gorgeous to watch but voided its factory warranty. Henry appeared to be riding regardless of his mileage in the first half of 2021, with five afternoon rushes of 100 yards in his first six games, before suffering a broken foot against the Colts in Week 8 He came back for 20 carries for 62 yards in the playoff loss to the Bengals, a far cry from the 195-yard playoff performances of years past that made Henry more than a legend in the game. fantasy football.

An overused power runner coming off a serious foot injury? Of course, we’ll take it as an RB1 fantasy (more on that later), if only because there aren’t many better options, but we’ll pass on Henry as the focal point of an offense with Super Bowl aspirations.

The walkthrough is certain that Henry is toasting, not because of the injury or a “curse” (and the research behind that curse), but because of a Sports Info Solutions metric called Broken Tackles plus Missed Tackles divided by Attempts. The walkthrough abbreviates it to BMT%, and that’s exactly what the label says.

Denver Broncos rookie Javonte Williams led the NFL with a 21.7% BMT in 2021. Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary was a surprising second at 21.3%. Most running backs that matter were in the 15.0% range: Aaron Jones (17.5%), Alvan Kamara (16.3%), Jonathan Taylor (16.3%), Nick Chubb (15 .4%).

So where is Henry? Well, here are the NFL’s worst broken/missed tackle rates for 2021 among guards with 150+ carries:

% Lowest BMT, 2021
name Team BMT %
Ezekiel Elliott LAD 6.8%
Cordarelle Patterson ATL 7.8%
jamal williams TED 8.5%
Chuba Hubbard SELF 8.7%
Myles Gaskins MIA 8.7%
Derrick Henry TEN 9.6%
Saquon Barkley NYG 9.9%
Austin Ekeler KAC 10.7%
Joe Mixon RIC 11.3%
james robinson JAX 12.2%

Elliott is the albatross Jerry Jones chained around the Cowboys’ neck. (Tony Pollard’s BMT% wasn’t that hot of 10.8%, if you’re curious.) Patterson was a fun story for a not-so-fun team, but he was nothing more than an adequate rusher. . Williams is an RB2 veteran better known for his fun banter and locker room leadership than truck-stick highlights. Hubbard was a bland rookie served on a bad team. Gaskin is a committee back who played behind one of the league’s worst lines in 2021; he rarely had room to run and did nothing with what he had. Barkley is the muscle car the Giants destroyed the moment they ran him off the field.

We’re seeing better running backs at the bottom (top, really) of the list above, but we’re also seeing BMT rates climbing well into the double digits. It should be noted here that BMT% is a rushed stat, so Ekeler, Patterson and others get no credit for defenders juking after receptions. (An analysis of BMT reception rates for running backs revealed nothing noteworthy about the backs we discuss.)

It’s not an encouraging sign to see Henry on the same list as guys like Elliott and Barkley, plus a bunch of committee backs and randos. Perhaps this is some sort of statistical anomaly. Henry is more likely to break a tackle than miss a defender, so maybe there’s a counting aberration at work. Maybe Henry is still showing low BMT rates, and that’s okay.

No. Here are Henry’s career broken/miss tackle percentages:

Derrick Henry, BMT Career%
Year BMT %
2017 23.3%
2018 23.7%
2019 21.5%
2020 15.1%
2021 9.6%

Oh dear. It appears that BMT rates can be driven down by a central tendency when a back’s workload becomes extremely high. Makes sense for someone like Henry, who gets a lot of carries near the goal line (few chances to miss defenders) and in winning fourth quarters (keeping both hands on the ball is a higher priority than breaking a long gain). High utilization may explain Henry’s downfall in 2020, but he posted by far the worst rate of his career in 2021. What’s more, his rates have been falling for four years. Additionally, his foot injury had little or nothing to do with his 2021 downfall as he only wore a handful of times after being injured in the Colts game, and his playoff performance. is not counted in the figures above.

To give a rough idea of ​​what these BMT rates mean: Henry broke or fumbled 29 tackles in 182 carries in his first eight games of 2020 and 34 tackles in 151 carries in his first eight games of 2019. Last year , he broke or fumbled just 21 of 219 tackles before suffering an injury late in his eighth game. So we’re talking about 8-13 trucks and jukes lost in half a season, or about 1-1.5 per game, maybe more if you factor in an increase in runs. One or two fewer highlights per game is the difference between an Offensive Player of the Year Candidate and a high-volume worker.

Just to make sure we weren’t looking for high volatility stats that have little to do with future performance, we combed through data from Sports Info Solutions looking for rushers from 2015 to 2021. with over 200 attempts in a season but a BMT% in Henry’s neighborhood in 2021. Here’s who we found:

% Lowest BMT, 200+ litters, 2015-2021
name Team Year BMT %
Ezekiel Elliott LAD 2021 6.8%
Kenyan drake ARI 2020 9.2%
Derrick Henry TEN 2021 9.6%
Jordan Howard CHI 2018 9.6%
Franck Gore INDIANA 2016 9.9%
Darren McFadden LAD 2015 10.0%
Lamar Miller HOO 2016 10.1%
Alfred Morris BEEN 2015 10.4%
Austin Ekeler LAKE 2021 10.7%
Isaiah Crowell KEY 2017 10.7%
Sony Michel NOT 2018 10.9%

We usually add columns to charts like the one above detailing what happened to each player the following season, but come on, just look at this list: it’s all the rushers on their last legs as a featured back or half back. one-year wonders. It’s a scary list for Henry (and Zeke; Ekeler can safely blend into a committee role) to figure on.

So what will Henry’s first season be like with a blown piston rod? The 2019 season of Todd Gurley (857 yards, 12 touchdowns) or Zeke last year (1,002 yards, 10 touchdowns) probably represents the bottom of the projection. Henry is going to be stuffed with over 20 carries a game, after all, because the Titans suddenly have nothing else on offense.

The walkthrough peaked in early KUBIAK screenings, and they’re very encouraging for fantasy players, in part because we’re projecting well over 300 carries for Henry. But there’s a difference between a running back who can rack up a dozen touchdowns for your fantasy team and one who can reliably produce big yardage for stacked boxes for a team that’s been forced to trade their best. wide receiver on draft day.

The biggest yellow flag for Henry and the Titans may not be a broken tackle percentage or the 370 curse, but a receiving corps now led by rookie Treylon Burks and 30-year-old veteran Robert Woods. years old who is new to the team/system and coming out of an ACL tear. We rightly roast the Cowboys for overpaying Zeke and losing Amari Cooper as a result, but Henry is costing the Titans $15 million in cap space this year, money that could have been used to keep AJ Brown. The Titans may have gotten their fingertips: Henry’s salary contributed to the loss of Brown, whose absence will make things more difficult for Henry, whose past mileage could prevent him from breaking tackles which he used to break to hum Attack on Titans. .

The Titans wrote something of an insurance policy for Henry: fourth-round pick Hassan Haskins, who was a 270-1,327-20 workhorse for Michigan. Unfortunately, Haskins’ BMT% of 13.0% ranked 29th among rushers with 200+ runs in 2021 and was well below the rates posted by top prospects Kenneth Walker (29.9%) and Breece Hall. (28.5%).

So yes, Derrick Henry is toast, although it may take another year or two for him to crumble to bits, and there’s a disturbing chance that the Titans will slowly crumble with him.




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