When the Green Bay Packers play the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night, all eyes will be on Titans running back Derrick Henry. The giant runner is averaging better than 100 rushing yards per game this season and his return to elite production after a slow start has coincided with his team winning six out of their last seven games.
But even given his 6-foot-3, 247-pound frame, is there a chance that the Titans are overworking Henry? He did miss half of last season with an injury, but that does not appear to have slowed him down to start 2022. Surely, the Packers will have their hands full trying to contain him on Thursday.
Still, Henry’s workload over the past four or five seasons is historic, at least in the modern NFL. In 2020, he carried the football 378 times, one of just 24 seasons in history that saw a running back have 375 carries or more. The last time that happened prior to 2020 was in 2006, when Kansas City gave Larry Johnson an all-time record 416 carries. And since the start of 2021, Henry has 421 carries in 17 games, including a league-leading 202 this season.
That’s not a concern for the Titans, however, according to Jimmy Morris of our sister site, Music City Miracles. He expects Tennessee to run its offense through him all night on Thursday, and it will be a major challenge for the Packers to contain him. Meanwhile, the Titans’ defense has some injury concerns that may affect their ability to maintain an elite run defense against Aaron Jones and company.
Scroll down to see what Jimmy has to say in response to our questions about the state of the Titans heading into this big Thursday night matchup.
APC: We all know about Derrick Henry’s greatness, and the Titans gave him massive workloads during their big recent winning streak. But with him missing half of last season to injury, is there concern among those who follow and cover the Titans that he can’t keep getting the ball 25 to 30 times every week?
Not really. Derrick Henry isn’t built like pretty much any other human on the planet. If you have seen his offseason training videos, you know that he does some insane stuff to get ready to carry that load for the Titans every week. He has historically gotten better as the season goes on because of how good of shape he is in. Father Time is undefeated, as they say, but King Henry might be the first guy that Father Time is afraid of.
APC: There was a decent amount of hype around the Packers potentially drafting Treylon Burks in the first round this spring before the Titans grabbed him at 18 overall. How have the early returns been on Burks, acknowledging that he has missed a few games due to injury?
He’s been pretty good. There was a lot made about his conditioning during the offseason program, but he came to camp in great shape. His numbers aren’t great because this passing game isn’t good. Hopefully, his role will continue to expand over the next few weeks. They are going to have to make some plays in the passing game to win games at some point. Burks has to be the guy to step up when that time comes.
APC: Defensively, the Titans appear to have some significant injuries. What are the chances that DT Jeffery Simmons, S Amani Hooker, and EDGE Bud Dupree suit up on Thursday night, and if any of them can’t go, who will fill in for them?
It’s really hard to tell with the simulated practice injury reports on this short week. Simmons and Hooker appear to be trending toward possibly playing. If Hooker plays, it will be the first time this season the Titans have had their complete secondary together for a game. The nickel back, Elijah Molden, saw his first game action of the year last week, so it would be good to see them all together. Andrew Adams has been playing in place of Hooker and has done a nice job. Mario Edwards, Jr. has seen more run at defensive tackle with Simmons out. He’s had a sack in each of the last two games.
Dupree is more of a long-shot to play. The hip injury that he is dealing with has been bothering him for most of the season. Replacing him is a little tougher because EDGE guys don’t grow on trees. Second-year player Rashaad Weaver has been playing really well with Dupree out.
APC: Is there a clear reason for the discrepancy between the Titans’ success defending the run and their struggles against the pass? Are their opponents throwing the ball a ton because Tennessee has gotten out to early leads, is it a schematic approach, or is there something else happening here?
The Titans front seven is really good. That has been the biggest reason they have shut down opposing teams. They have a bunch of guys on that front that are versatile players who are good at stopping the run and rushing the passer, so teams really haven’t been able to run the ball. The secondary has had a lot of injuries, so throwing the ball has been the path of least resistance for opposing teams. That’s why we are all excited to see what the pass defense looks like if/when everyone gets healthy.
APC: The over/under total for this game is currently sitting at around 43 points (according to DraftKings), and a Titans game hasn’t gone over 41 since week 3. With the Packers also struggling in the offense department, do you think Thursday night will be a defensive battle or will these teams open up with some offensive fireworks in ways we haven’t seen much yet this season?
I don’t think the Titans are capable of offensive fireworks. They at least haven’t shown those at all to this point in the season. That’s what happens when you have a group of pass catchers that aren’t great and a bad offensive line. Thursday Night Football has been low scoring for most of the year. Considering that, and the way these teams match up, I’d be surprised if this game hit the over.
Our thanks go out to Jimmy and the team over at Music City Miracles and we look forward to an exciting game on Thursday night!