This Sunday’s contest at Tennessee will be the first time Las Vegas Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has ever had to game-plan against Derrick Henry. He recognizes the unique challenges the Titans’ bell cow back brings to the table.
Since being drafted in 2016 out of Alabama, where he won the Heisman Trophy in his final year, the Tennessee Titans running back has been one of the best in the NFL and one of the hardest to stop. At 6’3″ and 247 pounds with tremendous speed, he’s extremely difficult to tackle and finishes his runs with great physicality. Henry is able to wear down a defense over the course of a game, and even if he gets bottled up early, he can often pop a long run later on in a game.
Patrick Graham will have his hands full with Derrick Henry on Sunday
“Well, I’ve never gone against [Derrick] Henry before, so this is interesting. I’ve admired him from afar because as a defensive coach, there are not too many things we like about offense but when you see a guy that could run the ball and the way he runs the ball and the physicality, I wish he would have switched over to defensive end or linebacker at some point. I’m excited about the challenge. You hear so much about him throughout the league and over the years and really haven’t had a chance to face him. The only time I faced him was in 2018 in the preseason and he was only out there for one drive when I was at Green Bay. This is going to be fun because he challenges you, the combination of him and the offensive line,” said Graham.
While Henry has enjoyed the benefits of a solid offensive line his entire career, left tackle Taylor Lewan suffered an injury on the first offensive snap of the Titans’ loss to the Bills on Monday and is feared to be out for the season. That could give the Raiders an advantage against Henry and quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but only if the Raiders are solid in the fundamental aspects of the game, tackling being foremost amongst them.
Can Graham’s defense bring him down?
“Tackling is going to be a tough deal. I mean, this is a big man. As I said, I only saw him one time live and in person. He is a big man. There are not a lot of people on the planet that look like him. So, tackling is the number one thing, and then the relentlessness. I mean, this is a back that could get the ball 25-30 times in the game if you let him. So, I mean, it’s going to be relentless. He’s going to keep coming at you.”
The Jaguars could tell you what happens when you don’t tackle Henry properly, as he ripped off a 99-yard run against them in 2018, one of only two such runs in NFL history.
“I’m not comparing him to Marshawn Lynch, but I just remember Marshawn is the best I ever went against in terms of coaching and just how it would build throughout the game. That third quarter was tough, man. It was tough because Marshawn was still going and you see some of that, some of the playoff games I’ve seen in the past with [Derrick] Henry. It’s going to be a whole bunch of guys that got to get to him. Plus, they do a good job blocking, so, you know, it’s going to be tough.”
The Bills showed how to stop Henry on Monday night, holding him to 25 yards on 13 carries. If the Raiders can force turnovers and sustain long offensive drives, as well as opening up a big lead and forcing the Titans to abandon the run, that will go a long way toward stopping Henry and securing the Raiders’ first victory of the season.
*Top Photo: Associated Press