Titans’ Henry attempting to add dimensions to his game
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Titans rookie running back Derrick Henry left a lasting impression in Thursday’s practice.
The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner took a handoff from Marcus Mariota, hit the hole, then lowered his shoulder and knocked linebacker Nate Palmer, who was trying to make the stop.
“That’s a real play,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “He’s going to move the pile, whoever’s in the way better get out of the way. Some of the things he did out here with some of the cuts where he broke it to the outside, he had speed to get away from some of our outside guys, which again was a real play in practice so it’s good to see.”
That’s the Derrick Henry everyone knows and expects to be part of the Titans offense this season.
But the second-round pick has worked hard to show that he is more than just a cut-and-go running back.
Henry aspires not only to be a threat running the football, but also catching passes and protecting quarterbacks. Being able to do more than just run between the tackles would put the rookie in a better position to stay on the field for more snaps as he backs up DeMarco Murray.
With Murray expected to only see limited action in Saturday’s preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers, Henry could get an extended chance to show off his skills with the first team, which means being able to handle whatever role is called.
“It’s very important (to be a complete back),” Henry said. That’s what I want to be known as. That’s why I’m working hard to get better every day. I work on catching the ball, running the ball and pass protection just so I can become a complete back.”
Henry wasn’t asked to do much receiving at Alabama, where he won the Heisman and helped the Crimson Tide win the 2015 national championship. Henry caught 11 passes last season and totaled 17 receptions in his three years at Alabama. But the Titans have shown a willingness to be more creative by splitting him out wide in certain packages.
“He’s done well in all the areas,” Titans running backs coach Sylvester Croom said. “He’s got to get better in all of them, but we haven’t put any limitations on him. We expect him to be good in all those areas. He’s working toward that. He hasn’t put any limitations on himself. He’s been willing to learn, and he learns very fast.
“He has good hands. If fact, he dropped one pass in the offseason and he hasn’t dropped any in camp so far.”
How good are Henry’s receiving skills? When the Titans practiced Monday in their intra-squad scrimmage at Nissan Stadium, Henry was one of several players in line to field kickoffs in pregame warmups. He didn’t drop one.
Although he didn’t get to show much of his versatility in college, Henry is confident he can contribute when his number is called as a pass receiver.
“I definitely want to be a threat in the passing game and catch the ball out of the backfield,” he said.