Derrick Henry had a very interesting 2018 season. He started off very slowly and grew frustrated with his role splitting time with Dion Lewis in the Titans’ backfield. In eight of the team’s first 12 games, he had 46 or fewer rushing yards. Then he caught fire over the final month of the season, putting in consecutive performances of 238 and 170 yards on the ground. In that 238-yard game he had one of the most electrifying plays of the entire NFL season, with his 99-yard instant-classic touchdown run where he threw multiple defenders to the ground. Henry became the team’s featured back down the stretch, and Lewis got reduced to a bit role.
It created an interesting situation heading into 2019, as Henry enters the final year of his rookie deal. We’ve already heard that Lewis’ roster spot is safe, but it’s unclear how they plan on splitting up work, especially with offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur now gone to Green Bay. Speaking of his contract situation, Paul Kuharsky of PaulKuharsky.com writes that it will be “complicated.” Kuharsky opines that “if he has the big year they need from him, he will command more money than he is worth. And if he doesn’t, then he won’t be worth having.” A second-round pick in 2016, Henry will likely be seeking a big payday next offseason. The coaching staff and front office have never seemed completely enamored with him even when he’s producing, and it’ll be fascinating to see how they handle his free agency. Kuharsky is vehemently against the Titans using the franchise tag on the Alabama running back, writing that the “best hope for the Titans regarding Henry going forward is that he had a very good year and the market is soft for him anyway” next spring.
Here’s more from around the AFC:
- Speaking of the Titans, it sounds like third-year receiver Taywan Taylor could be ticketed for a bigger role in 2019. The Titans’ receiving situation has been inconsistent at best the past couple of years, and they still need to figure out a starter opposite Corey Davis on the outside. “Honestly, I just think we need to give him more opportunities,” Tennessee’s receivers coach Rob Moore said recently of Taylor, per Jim Wyatt of the team’s official site. Taylor has shown a lot of promise since entering the league as the 72nd overall pick back in 2017, but hasn’t gotten a ton of consistent looks. The Titans signed Adam Humphries to a big contract this offseason, but he’ll be playing mostly out of the slot. Taylor had 466 yards in just 13 games last year, and it sounds like he could have a leg-up on the competition for the starting spot opposite Davis.
- It sounds like Jamison Crowder is going to have a big role with the Jets. Crowder was always highly regarded during his time in Washington, but never truly broke out and injuries ruined his 2018 campaign. He signed a three-year, $28.5MM deal this offseason, and New York is apparently very high on him, per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. Mehta writes that new coach “Adam Gase has made no secret about how much he’ll lean on pass catchers inside the numbers in his scheme.” Crowder will be operating out of the slot, and it looks like he might thrive in Gase’s offense. That spot is important to us,” Gase said of slot receivers. “(It) really kind of creates the tempo of the offense.” He continued by saying “a lot of the slot receivers, historically have been not guys that are threats down the field. He’s a threat down the field, but at the same time he can catch it and create, which is going to be interesting for us because we’ve never had a guy who can really juice it up.” Mehta also writes that Sam Darnold already feels fondly toward his new safety blanket.
- In case you missed it, Jets left tackle Kelvin Beachum is unlikely to be back with the team in 2020.