The conversation of who the best running back in the NFL begins and ends with Derrick Henry. There really isn’t a debate on trying to find a better back, since Henry continues to put up astonishing performances on a weekly basis. Even when Henry has an average performance, he still finds a way to change the game for the Tennessee Titans by having a big run or scoring a game-altering touchdown. 

Since Henry finally became the starting running back (and in a workhorse role) for the Titans in 2018, the franchise has become one of the AFC’s best. Tennessee is 21-11 since Henry became the full-time starter, winning 12 of the last 14 games — over the same time Ryan Tannehill took over as the starting quarterback. Over his last 14 regular season games, Henry has 313 carries for 1,712 yards (5.47 yards per carry) with 18 touchdowns — a performance that matches Titans legends Earl Campbell, Eddie George, and Chris Johnson in their prime. Henry led the NFL in all those statistics at the running back position.

Henry is certainly entering the prime of his career, and won’t be giving up the throne of being the top running back in the league any time soon. In this week’s “by the numbers,” we take a look at Henry’s dominance around the NFL over the last three seasons and over the course of the franchise’s history.

Most Rushing Yards (since start of 2018)

  1. Ezekiel Elliott — 3,204
  2. Derrick Henry — 3,187
  3. Nick Chubb — 2,825
  4. Joe Mixon — 2,733
  5. Chris Carson — 2,670

Most Rushing TD (since start of 2018) 

  1. Derrick Henry — 34
  2. Todd Gurley — 34
  3. Aaron Jones — 29
  4. Christian McCaffrey — 26
  5. Ezekiel Elliott — 23
  6. Alvin Kamara — 23

Highest Yards Per Carry Average (since start of 2018) 

Minimum 400 Carries

  1. Nick Chubb — 5.16
  2. Derrick Henry — 4.97
  3. Aaron Jones — 4.96
  4. Phillip Lindsay — 4.87
  5. Christian McCaffrey — 4.83

Henry ranking in the top-2 of all three categories isn’t a surprise, given his incredible production since becoming the starter at running back for Tennessee. Henry has three of the top five single game rushing performances since the start of the 2018 season — all over 200 yards — and three of the six 200-yard rushing games during that stretch. Henry has six games of 150+ rushing yards since the start of 2018, double that of Christian McCaffrey — who has the second most performances in that category. 

Henry also has two games that he recorded a 90+ yard run in that span, tying him with Bo Jackson, Lamar Miller, Chris Johnson and Ahman Green for the most in NFL history. Henry also had his third career game with 200+ rush yards and 2+ touchdowns since 2018 (the third such game he recorded in Sunday’s win over the Texans), and is now tied for the most such games in NFL history with Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, and LaDainian Tomlinson.

Let’s take a look at how good Henry has been since Ryan Tannehill took over as the Titans starter in Week 7 of last season. 

Most Rushing Yards (Since Week 7 of 2019 Season)

  1. Derrick Henry — 1,712
  2. Joe Mixon — 1,313
  3. Ezekiel Elliott — 1,279
  4. Nick Chubb — 1,222
  5. Aaron Jones – 1,124

Most Rushing TD (Since Week 7 of 2019 Season)

  1. Derrick Henry — 18
  2. Dalvin Cook — 14
  3. Todd Gurley — 13
  4. Ezekiel Elliott — 12
  5. Todd Gurley — 12
  6. Christian McCaffrey — 12

Henry and Tannehill actually made some history in Sunday’s win over the Houston Texans, as Tennessee became the first team in league history to have a 350+ yard passer and 200+ yard rusher in the same game — showcasing the dominance the two players have been for the organization since Tannehill became the starter. Tennessee is 12-2 in the 14 regular season games since Tannehill became the starting quarterback.

So where does Henry rank among the Titans legendary running backs through his first 67 games? Remember, Henry didn’t become a starter until his third season and split carries in his first two years. 

Most Rushing Yards (in Titans history through first 67 games)

  1. Earl Campbell — 6,850
  2. Chris Johnson — 5,831
  3. Eddie George — 5,536
  4. Derrick Henry — 4,421
  5. Mike Rozier — 3,392

Most Rushing TD (in Titans history through first 67 games)

  1. Earl Campbell — 57
  2. Derrick Henry — 44
  3. Chris Johnson — 38
  4. Eddie George — 30
  5. Mike Rozier — 27

Highest Yards Per Carry Avg (Titans history through first 67 games)

Minimum 500 Carries

  1. Derrick Henry — 4.77
  2. Chris Johnson — 4.68
  3. Earl Campbell — 4.54
  4. Chris Brown — 4.29
  5. Lorenzo White — 4.18

Henry is clearly stating his case to be viewed amongst the best running backs in Titans franchise history as his numbers continue to grow. The Titans are 41-26 in Henry’s first 67 games, as the .612 winning percentage is higher than George (.582 — and he reached a Super Bowl), Campbell (.567) and Johnson (.562). 

Henry is fourth all-time in franchise history in rushing yards, but it will be a while before he catches Johnson for third (7,965). George is the only running back in franchise history with 10,000 rushing yards (10,009), so Henry will need to play at a high level for five or six more seasons to surpass him. Henry has a legitimate shot at surpassing Campbell’s franchise record for rushing touchdowns (73), as his 44 touchdowns are just six behind Johnson (50) for third in franchise history. 

The one piece of hardware that would solidify Henry’s place as the best running back in franchise history would be a Super Bowl title, something that has eluded the Titans as the franchise seeks to end a 59-year championship drought dating back to 1961. Henry has the talent to carry the the Titans to a championship, as 2020 may be Tennessee’s best chance to win a title with Henry — as he’s in the prime of his career. 

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