Titans add Heisman winner Derrick Henry to 2 defensive picks
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Coach Mike Mularkey wants the Tennessee Titans to run so often that having the NFL’s 2014 rushing leader wasn’t enough.
They added a Heisman Trophy winner for a very crowded backfield.
The Titans selected Alabama running back Derrick Henry with the No. 45 overall pick, their third of three picks in the second round Friday night. They traded for DeMarco Murray in March and reworked his deal keeping him under contract through 2019.
“We’ve got two workhorse backs now,” Titans general manager Jon Robinson said.
The Titans, who selected Michigan State offensive lineman Jack Conklin in the first round Thursday, used their first two of three selections in the second round Friday night on defense. They took Clemson linebacker Kevin Dodd at No. 33, Penn State defensive tackle Austin Johnson at No. 43 and started the third round off with Middle Tennessee safety Kevin Byard at No. 64.
But the big move was adding another running back with Henry, now the second Heisman Trophy winner in the backfield. He’ll join quarterback Marcus Mariota, the 2014 winner out of Oregon.
The Titans have invested heavily in running backs the past couple years.
Bishop Sankey was the first running back drafted in 2014, and they took David Cobb in the fifth round out of Minnesota last year. But no running back has run for 100 yards since Chris Johnson in the final game of the 2013 season. Mariota needed an 87-yard TD to run for 112 yards last December.
Mularkey said now the Titans have one of their most competitive positions.
“There’ll be a rhyme and reason we’re doing things with both of them at times,” Mularkey said of Murray and Henry. “Third down will be a big factor in protections. Both of them are very good in protections, talking about every down we’ve got a fresh, physical player running the football or blocking for us. So it’s a really nice thing to have.”
The Titans traded for DeMarco Murray in March, bringing the NFL’s 2014 rushing leader to town to boost a run game that ranked 25th last season averaging just 92.8 yards per game. Henry ran for an Alabama and Southeastern Conference record 2,219 yards last season as a junior. Henry also ran for 28 touchdowns.
“I’m not worried about it at all,” Henry said when asked about Murray. “I’m just going to come in and compete and get better every day. DeMarco is a great back and had great success. So I’m just going to learn from him, compete every day and try get better.”
Tennessee improved as a defense last season with Dick LeBeau working with then-coordinator Ray Horton. The Titans ranked 12th in yards allowed but just 27th in points given up. Horton left for Cleveland, and LeBeau now is running the defense.
He joins the 6-foot-5, 277-pound Dodd played defensive end at Clemson, and he said he played on the outside in both a 4-3 and 3-4 fronts for the Tigers. The Titans see him as outside linebacker in LeBeau’s 3-4 scheme.
Dodd is coming off his best season with 12 sacks and ranked second to teammate Shaq Lawson with 23 ½ tackles for loss in 2015 for the Tigers. Dodd expected to be selected in the first round, so he was in Chicago for the opening night of the NFL draft. When he went undrafted, Dodd returned home to Taylors, South Carolina, where the Titans called to add him to their roster.
The 6-4, 314-pound Johnson had 15 tackles for loss and 6 ½ sacks last season, and he also returned a fumble 71 yards for his first career touchdown.
Byard had 19 interceptions in his four-year career at Middle Tennessee and returned four for touchdowns. He also forced five fumbles.
AP NFL websites: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker