Will Derek Henry start turning back in 2022? Look at the numbers

Derek Henry possesses a unique combination of size and speed that doesn’t come up often in the NFL. The Tennessee Titans star has been in the league for six years now, but didn’t really start taking the lion’s share of the team’s campaigns until 2018.

Since then, he has amassed nearly 5,600 yards and 55 touchdowns while leading the league in rushing in both 2019 and 2020, the latter having a 2,000-yard season.

However, he also had the most urgent attempts (1115) over the past four years, including 219 during the first eight weeks of 2021 before missing the second half of the campaign with a foot injury.

He returned for the postseason but was generally packaged by the Cincinnati Bengals in a season-ending loss.

It looks like the Alabama producer will be trending 100 percent this year, but should there be a concern about when Henry’s production will start to decline?

History has shown that the age of 30 is usually when running begins to decline as wear eventually settles and injuries accumulate.

Last year was really the first time Henry had a major injury in his career. However, a closer look at the 28-year-old’s numbers reveals that he may be on the cusp of a decline.

Next Gen Stats has developed a metric called “Rushing Yards Over Expected Per Attempt” (RYOE/Att) that essentially compares actual rush yards and projected rush yards per carry, according to NFL.com.

If we focus on the accelerator and remove the other, [offensive] For team players, it looks like a simple game where one player tries to escape while 11 others try to catch him. We assume that once accelerating play begins, every defender, regardless of his position, will focus on stopping the rush as quickly as possible, and every defender will have an opportunity to do so. The defender’s chances of countering the impulse (as well as the estimated position of the step) depend on the relative position, speed and direction of the movements.”

If we look at the data for the past four years, we find that the Titans were well above the league average from 2018 to 2020, but last year was the first time they fell below par, coming in at 0.05.

Tennessee Titans Derek Henry

Tennessee Titans Derek Henry

Credit: Next Gen Stats

If we look at Henry’s streaming yards after contact at every attempt (YAC/Att), it’s been down steadily since the 2018 season and tumbled at 2.2 in 2021.

Looking at some of the other notable names across the league, Ezekiel Elliott has seen a steady decline in RYOE/Att over the past four seasons, including dropping below the league average in 2020 and 2021.

The 27-year-old has had a lot of mileage since entering the league in 2016, and that’s starting to show.

At 26 years old, Nick Chubb was well above Henry at RYOE/Att in 2020 before coming back to Earth a bit in 2021.

He has had two injuries in that period, including an MCL injury in 2020 and a calf injury in 2021, which caused him to miss seven games between the two seasons. It will be interesting to see if his downward trend in RYOE/Att continues into 2022.

Of the players pictured above, Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor just started making a headway.

The 23-year-old took advantage of Henry’s absence from the remainder of the 2021 regular season, stealing 1,162 streaming yards over the final nine weeks en route to a speedy title.

Henry still looks poised to be a significant factor at the top of the league’s rushing categories, but we can’t realistically expect his dominance to continue for much longer.


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The story originally appeared on Titans Wire

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