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What's the Jets' Strategy to Stop Titans RB Derrick Henry?

Henry Has Led NFL in Rushing Yards Each of the Last 2 Seasons; Paces League Through 3 Games in 2021


Throughout the season, reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg and Randy Lange will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.

Today's question: What's the Jets' strategy to stop Titans RB Derrick Henry?

EA: It feels appropriate that Robert Saleh was using boxing analogies this week. Derrick Henry (6-3, 247) is a great heavyweight running back, a huge puncher who can knock out an opponent early, but also a relentless body attacker who can wear an opponent down in the later rounds. The Jets defense has repeatedly answered the bell this season, ranking 10thoverall (328.3 Yds/G) despite losing DE Carl Lawson to an Achilles tendon injury in August and lining up without veteran LB Jarrad Davis (ankle). They've been good on third down, ranking No. 4 (29.7%), and great inside the red zone, tying for first (33.3%). The Broncos rushed for 121 yards last Sunday, but they had to earn every one while averaging 3.3 yards per carry. The test in Week 4 is stiffer as Henry, who has averaged 31 carries and 147 yards the past two games, leads the third-ranked Titans rush offense. Tennessee ranks fourth in time of possession, owning the ball for 33:27. The responsibility of containing Henry will fall on 11 defenders, and the young Jets DBs have to continue to come down and bring the wood. Henry will pound it inside, but he also leads the NFL with 54 outside attempts for a 5.1 yard average. The Jets rank No. 4 containing outside runs, stopping a run from netting two positive yards on 24.4 percent of attempts.

EG: Swarm to the football and gang tackle. Henry (6-3, 247) is similar in size to Jets DL Bryce Huff (6-3, 255) and TE Dan Brown (6-5, 247). As former WR Corey Davis, who was drafted by the Titans fifth overall in 2017, said, "It doesn't make sense for him to be that big and run like he does." Henry has led the NFL in rushing attempts, yards and touchdowns each of the last two seasons, becoming the eighth player in NFL history to eclipse 2,000 rushing yards in a single season (2,027 in 2020). Through three games this season, he again leads the NFL in all three categories. The Titans may be without both starting WRs A.J. Brown (hamstring) and Julio Jones (leg), which could mean the Green & White could devote more attention to stopping Henry. Henry is like a freight train -- once he gets going, he's hard to stop. So if the Jets can win up front and get to him early, they should be able to slow him down. The Jets defense held Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams to a combined 2.97 yards per carry last week on 30 attempts. Henry only received 17 carries in Tennessee's Week 1 loss and averaged 31.5 carries in their two wins. He's also tied for the team lead with 12 receptions this season. It's a tall test for anyone in the NFL and this Sunday, for the Jets.

RL: That reminds me of a Creedence Clearwater Revival number, "Who'll Stop the Rain?" Henry is the best back in the NFL going into his third straight season and won't be stopped or slowed easily. C.J. Mosley's strategy for coping with the 6-3, 247-pounder: "We have to do a great job collectively of getting him down. Obviously we all know the stiffarm is coming, so our guys on the edge, our DBs, when and if he does break on the sidelined, having everybody run to the ball and trying to gang-tackle." Another thing Mosley said will also come into play. Henry runs wide to both sides — the Titans are third in the NFL with 9.5 yards/carry off left end, first in the league with 10.3 yards/carry off right end, most of those totes by Henry. Against Seattle, he even ran wide right, doubled back to the left, then outran and finally outmuscled several Seahawks into the end zone. So the Jets ends — JFM, Shaq Lawson, Bryce Huff, et al. — will not only need to gang-tackle but to set the edge so as to turn Henry back inside and make gang-tackling a surer proposition.

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