Patriots

Without star Derrick Henry, the Titans offense has become far more predictable

"Few players are more integral to a team's offensive philosophy than Henry is."

The Titans are missing star running back Derrick Henry. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

When star running back Derrick Henry is healthy, the Titans boast one of the most explosive and multi-dimensional offenses in football.

They can let him wreak havoc while also relying on a strong receiving corps and dynamic quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Without Henry – who has been sidelined for the last three games due to a foot injury – the Titans become a lot more predictable. Henry posted 130-plus rushing yards in four of eight games this season, and without him, Tennessee hasn’t had anyone surpass 40.

Tannehill threw a season-high 52 passes and four interceptions in a dispiriting 22-13 loss to the Houston Texans last week. He and the Titans will try to bounce back this Sunday when they face the Patriots at 1 p.m., but it’s certainly a far greater challenge with Henry out of the equation.

Advertisement:

“Few players are more integral to a team’s offensive philosophy than Henry is,” Ben Solak of The Ringer wrote.

Henry racked up 219 carries for 937 yards and 10 touchdowns in eight games (in which the Titans went 6-2) before the injury. He’s still second in the NFL in rushing yards despite his extended absence.

Instead of relying on Henry’s 27 carries per game, the Titans have turned to a variety of sources over the last three weeks.

Veteran Adrian Peterson saw some action, but the Titans waived him earlier this week. D’Onta Foreman (tricep) was limited in practice Thursday. Jeremy McNichols (concussion) didn’t participate and is out for Sunday. Dontrell Hilliard (seven carries, 35 yards on the season) also on the depth chart, so it will likely be a running back by committee effort once again.

Tennessee ran the ball 26 times for 69 yards in a win over the Rams, 29 times for 66 yards in a win over the Saints, and 25 times for 103 yards in the loss to the Texans. The run game used to be a strength, but now it’s a way to simply keep defenses honest.

“The Titans’ offense isn’t any good without Derrick Henry,” Gentry Estes of the Tennessean wrote. “And it’s not getting any better. Three games without him, and the Titans still struggle mightily to do basic things that were pretty easy with him.”

Advertisement:

Tannehill has handed the ball off to several backs, yet none have close to the same effect on the game as Henry. The Texans were able to play the Titans to pass and pick Tannehill off over and over.

It’s possible the Texans game was an outlier, but if it’s the start of a trend, the Titans could be in for a long day against a dynamic Patriots defense that’s established itself as one of the best in the NFL.

The Patriots have the most interceptions in the league (18) and have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete just 59.6 percent of their passes – the third-lowest mark in the NFL.

Jump To Comments

Conversation

This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com