Tag Archives: Derrick Henry

NFL Running in Circles When it Comes to Backs

Another year of football, another year of the NFL running in circles when it comes to running backs. Despite ample reason not to, we see several teams invest heavily in a running back. And almost every time they come to regret that decision. This can hold a franchise back much in the way missing on a first-round quarterback, or any player, can.

Backs Have NFL Running in Circles

No Absence of Evidence

Locking in a player at a position with such a short shelf-life should be enough cause for pause. In a league where the average career length is just 3.3 years, running backs bring up the rear of the position groups at just 2.57 years.

This isn’t just a faceless projection of numbers, either. We have concrete evidence from just this past season of why teams should spread the wealth elsewhere.

Of the top seven backs by salary (the cutoff is making $10 million or more), only Derrick Henry and Alvin Kamara made it through the season unscathed. Meanwhile, Christian McCaffrey, David Johnson (woof), and Joe Mixon missed large chunks of the season.

To be fair, three of the top-10 rushers from last season are on this list in Henry, Dalvin Cook, and Ezekiel Elliott who, though he finished fifth in rushing this season, came into camp out of shape and looked a step slow.

Johnson’s contract is the oldest but, just like most of the others, it aged poorly fast. Singed in 2018, Johnson went on to have the second-best season of his career with 1,386 total yards from scrimmage. His rushing average did drop to sub-4.0 per carry.

It would only get worse for Johnson from that point on as he missed time each of the last two seasons and three of his last four. His average rose this season but it didn’t do much good as he missed Weeks 10-12.

More of the Same

McCaffrey (and Mixon in Cincinnati before the arrival of Joe Burrow) is the best thing going in Carolina and the smallish back was rewarded for it. But, after back-to-back seasons with 300-plus touches, he ended up on the shelf.

McCaffrey missed all but three games with various injuries. It was a banner moment for the detractors who said he was too small to last.

Elliott has long been a focal point of the Dallas offense but was once the focal point. But the necessary ascension of Dak Prescott found Zeke on the backburner often this past season.

He also came into camp out of shape and saw second-year man Tony Pollard show some juice in his stead. It’s not too far out there to picture the Cowboys cutting bait after the 2022 season.

Cook was leading the league in rushing for several weeks but missed time causing him to finish second to Henry. The dual-threat back is arguably Minnesota’s best player but he’s missed time in all four of his seasons in the NFL.

Still, he’s seen his carry totals rise each year and surpassed the dreaded “300-carry” mark.

Next Cycle

This should a warning to teams rostering the next batch of extension candidates. The likes of Josh Jacobs in Las Vegas, or Kenyan Drake who was transition tagged by Arizona but will be looking for a new deal this offseason.

We haven’t even touched on Saquon Barkley, who’s gone from playing a full slate as a rookie to missing 14 games two years later.

What are these teams to do? Jacobs is the second-best player for the Raiders and has missed time in both of his seasons in the NFL. Drake has been a part-time player since college and proved why so he’ll likely move on. Plus Arizona has Chase Edmonds to at least share the load.

But the Raiders are in a tough spot seeing as how there could be changes at the quarterback position.

It matters what kind of changes come. A rookie passer means a rookie contract at the game’s most expensive position. Any high-priced running back better be on a team with one of those otherwise it gets tricky filling out a roster with quality.

It’s also why Mixon isn’t talked about more in this piece. Carolina, Minnesota, and Tennessee all have quarterbacks making some decent coin. How long can they make it all work?

Easing the Burden

It’s not just Mixon that is out of focus for us, it’s also Henry and Kamara. Henry has been disproving critics all along just given his size and running style. But he’s led the league in rushing each of the last two seasons, increased his rushing production for the third straight season.

He also joined elite company by going over 2,000 yards on the ground. The only knock is he doesn’t catch a lot of passes limiting him; a scary thought.

Kamara’s usage is why the Saints aren’t drawing ire here. He has never carried the ball even 200 times; keeping him well away from the 300-carry mark. But he has 100-plus targets in all but one season, 2019 when he missed two games and still had 97 looks come his way.

Even here we see our pattern popping up. Kamara has never been used like a true “feature” back and he still was forced to miss time from getting banged up.

NFL Running in Circles with Backs

Larry Johnson was a big topic well before his tweets made the rounds. Over a two-year span during the 2005 and 2006 seasons, the Chiefs gave Johnson 752 carries. In one of those years, he had a whopping 416 carries.

Just like with David Johnson, Larry would sign an extension with the Chiefs before the 2007 season only to miss half of that campaign. He never started more than 12 games or appeared in more than 14 (which happened just once) again after that and was out of the league following the 2011 season.

Todd Gurley came out of college with bum knees but he and Leonard Fournette might be the poster children for not drafting a back high let alone giving him a monster deal.

Gurley will be on his third team next season. Fournette will be playing in the Super Bowl for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but he split that job this season, preserving him some.

We have this conversation all the time. You don’t pay running backs. So, sorry to Aaron Jones. You’ve had back-to-back incredible seasons. He still shouldn’t crack the $10 million-per-season threshold.

We know what straw stirs that and every drink across the NFL and it isn’t the running back. Not anymore. Teams would be better served reloading yearly at the position and cutting bait. Because, so far, the risks have far outweighed the rewards.

Philip Rivers vs Josh Allen Leads Super Wild Card Weekend

The NFL is in full playoff mode as everyone gears up for the first-ever “Super Wild Card” round. That just means that an extra team has been added to each conference’s playoff field, making it seven teams each from the AFC and NFC and 14 in total. But the additional entrants won’t be diluting the on-field product as we have a slew of great matchups ahead this weekend.

Previewing Super Wild Card Matchups

Indianapolis Colts @ Buffalo Bills

There’s a new sheriff running the AFC East and it’s the Buffalo Bills who won the division for the first time since 1995. Led by MVP-candidate Josh Allen at quarterback, the Bills unlocked their offense with the acquisition of Stefon Diggs in the offseason. Buffalo is second in points and yards this season; their highest marks since the 1992 season.

If “building from the trenches out” was a team, it would be the Indianapolis Colts. Aside from their heavy (and wise) investment in their offensive line, they also traded a first-round pick for DeForest Buckner to bolster their run defense. They then supplemented that with drafting players like Johnathan Taylor and Darius Leonard. Philip Rivers just has to take care of the football most of the time.

This is a matchup of the fourth (Buffalo) and 10th-ranked (Indianapolis) teams in DVOA, per Football Outsiders with Buffalo obviously having the edge. But the Colts defense, ranked seventh to the Bills 12th, could be the equalizer here. Buffalo is extremely reliant on the passing game and the Colts are top-10 in both pass and rush defense DVOA, with their pass defense ranking slightly higher. Meanwhile, Buffalo can check Rivers but could struggle with Taylor who ran for 253 yards in Week 17.

Prediction: Colts 24-21

Los Angeles Rams @ Seattle Seahawks

It’s always a thriller when division opponents face off. Knowing your opponent well levels the playing field or completely making it no contest. It’s the former for these teams as the Los Angeles Rams have been playing Seattle tough since before they were a good team themselves. Now, after John Wolford got them into the playoffs in Jared Goff’s stead in Week 17, they get the chance to make it count for something.

The Seattle Seahawks are riding a heater. After starting the year 5-0, they hit a bump in the road, going 3-4 over their next seven and losing to two playoff teams in the process. But they’ve won four straight and will host this game, for whatever that’s worth with no fans in attendance. And the addition of Carlos Dunlap has added teeth to the pass rush that was led by safety Jamal Adams. They’ve also turned from letting Russell Wilson “cook” to a more balanced attack.

L.A. is the only team in the NFC West Wilson has a losing record against (8-10) which includes being 3-5 against the Sean McVay-led version. But Seattle won the last meeting between the two in Week 16 20-6, in Los Angeles. Perhaps they’ve figured something out between the added juice to the pass rush that neutralizes Goff. They’ll need to in order to come away with a win.

Prediction: Rams 31-27

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Washington Football Team

In our first “David vs Goliath” matchup of the weekend, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to Washington to face the team with no name. It’s Tampa’s first playoff berth since 2007 and, given where the differences between this year’s roster and last year’s, is in no small thanks to Tom Brady. Of course, adding Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin doesn’t hurt either.

The Washington Football Team shouldn’t be here, and that’s not in reference to them having a losing record. A team that has gone through four different starting quarterbacks and settled on the one that had 17 surgeries to his leg isn’t supposed to be in the playoffs. But, led by a defense ranked third in DVOA, they present an interesting challenge. Not in the secondary as the Bucs are loaded. But the Washington pass rush is third in Pass Rush Win Rate, per ESPN whereas Tampa is just 17th in Pass Block Win Rate, per ESPN.

As much as it would be a cool story for the Football Team to pull off the monumental upset, we have to be realistic. Tampa is far more talented and has much more leeway for the slow starts and mistakes that have plagued them throughout the year. But they need to remember what happened to the Steelers. Dawdling too long will see Washinton walk away victorious.

Prediction: Buccaneers 31-14

Baltimore Ravens @ Tennessee Titans

Sunday’s first game is a bit of a throwback. These are the first and second-ranked teams in rushing this season even though they go about it in a different way. The Baltimore Ravens focus in the ground game is quarterback Lamar Jackson who became the first quarterback in the NFL with multiple 1000-yard rushing seasons. Baltimore is having a “down” year compared to last, but they are still averaging 37-plus points per game over their last five.

This season, Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans became just the eighth person in NFL history to rush for 2000 yards. H also was the first to do so without a Pro Bowl offensive lineman. In a league that constantly reminds you why you don’t pay running backs, Henry is bucking the trend and proving you can still build around the position. You need a Ryan Tannehill to fill in the appropriate gaps, though, and the work the Titans have done there might be their best.

These teams met back in Week 11; a game the Titans won in overtime 30-24. Added to Jackson’s postseason struggles and it’s easy to see a path to a Titans win. Their biggest defensive weakness is also Jackson’s: the passing game. If they can manage to keep him in the pocket they can make short order of the Ravens. But the Tennessee pass rush is mediocre at best. If they are forced to rely on Tannehill this game will play right into Baltimore’s hands.

Prediction: Titans 31-28

Chicago Bears @ New Orleans Saints

Make no mistake about it, the Chicago Bears are a playoff team only because the NFL expanded the field. But that isn’t to say they haven’t done their best to rebound from a mid-season skid that saw them lose six straight games. They were 3-1 over the final of the season and were among the top-scoring teams in that span. In control of their own destiny entering Week 17, they failed to take out the “big brother” Green Bay Packers.

The New Orleans Saints are a powerhouse. So much so they went 3-1 in the four games Drew Brees missed with cracked ribs. And they’ve done it without Michael Thomas for most of the season. Thomas should rejoin the team for this one as the Saints look to give Brees the chance to go out on top if reports that this could be the last hurrah for the surefire Hall of Famer prove to be accurate.

Chicago hasn’t beaten the Saints since 2008 and hasn’t won in the Superdome since 2002. They’ve played each of the last two seasons, including back in Week 8. New Orleans has won both meetings by an average of 31-24 and is fifth in scoring, offensively and defensively, this season. The Bears are also dealing with injuries to key players like Roquan Smith and Jaylon Johnson. Does Chicago have a chance to pull the upset? Yes, but it isn’t a good one.

Prediction: Saints 34-17

Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers

The Cleveland Browns are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and they got there by beating the team they’ll face in the Super Wild Card round; albeit with a bunch of backups playing. Their 11-5 record is their best since 1994, Bill Belichick’s second to last year at the helm. Nick Chubb will have to find whatever cracks he can in the defense because bad things tend to happen when they rely on Baker Mayfield.

Many people called the Pittsburgh Steelers the most fraudulent 11-0 in history. A three-game skid that began with a loss to the Football Team reinforced that notion. Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a comeback victory in Week 16 over the Colts, at least pausing the doubters. But questions about this offense still remain. Such as, can they effectively run the football? Their rushing attack ranked 32nd in the regular season.

These two technically split their regular-season matchups but, as mentioned, the Steelers played backups in Week 17. Pittsburgh will need to come out of the gates fast or they could find themselves playing catchup on a team that specializes in ball control. The Steelers defense is first in DVOA and third in both points and yards. If they get the lead it’s almost certainly a wrap for this young Browns squad that ranked about average in counting stats and was 18th in DVOA. It’s just hard to see the former scenario playing out over the latter.

Prediction: Steelers 28-17

Super Wild Card Weekend Set to Excite

It’s a first in NFL history and there’s a chance this won’t be the only season with an expanded field. It was on the table well before COVID was a thing so that’s why it has staying power. They’ve avoided adding extra regular-season weeks (for now) and it’s hard to argue this is a bad thing when you look at some of the games we’re getting on Super Wild Card Weekend.

Week 10 Primetime Moneymakers: Smash-Mouth Football

Granted, we didn’t get a preseason. But this season is absolutely flying by. We’re already in Week 10 in the NFL and the playoff picture is taking shape. Kansas City is once again looking like the class of the AFC and really the entire NFL. That’s because the NFC is a clouded mess. Three to four teams can make a legitimate claim for best in the conference.

Another 2-1 week brings us to 8-8 on the season. Still not great but it has been a climb from the sub-.500 basement we were in. We are still struggling to nail down these totals, but that is secondary to calling winners. As usual, there is more money to be made and if anyone is going to lay claim to it it might as well be us.

Smash-Mouth Football On Tap in Week 10 Primetime Moneymakers

Indianapolis Colts (5-3) at Tennessee Titans (6-2)

Spread: Titans +1

O/U: 48.5

The Indianapolis Colts (4-4 ATS) come in allowing the fewest total yards (second in rushing and third in passing) in the NFL anchored by Darius Leonard and DeForest Buckner. They are also third in defensive DVOA (second in run defense DVOA). Boasting superb line play on either side of the ball, they might struggle against Tennessee middling run defense but they should give Philip Rivers plenty of time in the pocket. He had seemingly regained his form, throwing six touchdowns and zero interceptions in the two games before his dud in Baltimore in Week 9. Those other secondaries are closer to what the Titans have been.

We saw a stingy Chicago Bears defense take Derrick Henry away last week and the Titans (3-5 ATS) still came away victorious. Ryan Tannehill got the job done, throwing two touchdowns with no picks. That brings him to 19 touchdowns with only three interceptions. Henry was held to just 68 yards on 21 carries last week and 75 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers three weeks ago. An ominous sign with him facing his toughest test. Tennessee only has 10 sacks on the season so they’ll need Malcolm Butler, trade deadline-acquisition Desmond King, and the recently-activated Adoree’ Jackson to tighten things up on the back end.

This is a battle for AFC South supremacy but it’s only the first act. These two teams will face each other in two weeks so this one could put the Titans in the driver seat of the division. The Colts only victory over a team with a winning record was against the Bears. The Titans have two such wins, but one of them was also the Bears. That makes this essentially uncharted territory for both teams with a slight edge going to the Titans. Is their victory of the inconsistent Buffalo Bills convincing enough? They also almost knocked off the Steelers. Take the home team getting no respect from Vegas. Also (reluctantly) take the under as both offenses could struggle.

Baltimore Ravens (6-2) at New England Patriots (3-5)

Spread: Patriots +7

O/U: 43.5

What a matchup this would be if it were 2018. As it stands, the Baltimore Ravens (4-4 ATS) should be looking at this as a tune-up. The Ravens have been highly-scrutinized for their offensive struggles despite having the exact same record through six games as last year. That’s because they’ve fallen from having the top-ranked offense in DVOA in 2019 to 23rd here in 2020. Both phases have regressed but it’s Lamar Jackson’s passing that’s suffered the most. His touchdown rate came down from the unsustainable level of last season while he’s throwing picks at the highest rate of his career.

You’d have to go all the way back to 1994 to find a New England Patriots (3-5 ATS) team that was 3-5 through eight games. Cam Newton has regressed as the season has gone on, though he had somewhat of a bounceback against the lowly New York Jets a week ago in primetime. This is easily the stiffest challenge of Newton’s tenure in New England. His offense is already 24th in DVOA and 28th in passing DVOA. 

New England was hit the hardest of any team by COVID opt-outs; mostly on defense. It has shown. They rank 10th in yards thanks to ranking fifth against the pass. They’re 21st against the run. Sounds like the perfect recipe for Jackson and Co. to get things back on track, which is strange to type about a Bill Belichick-led Patriots team. Jackson has always given the Patriots defense some issues anyway. But in this state, a Baltimore win feels inevitable. Take the Ravens and the points. The under is also tempting but having been burned on several matchups like this, hard pass

Minnesota Vikings (3-5) at Chicago Bears (5-4)

Spread: Bears +2.5

O/U: 43

It hasn’t been the season most envisioned for the Minnesota Vikings (5-3 ATS) but they haven’t given up. They’ve won two games in a row, have an offense ranked seventh in DVOA, and have the league’s leading rusher in Dalvin Cook toting the rock. The Vikings have rightfully limited Kirk Cousins’ exposure. They’ll need to jump out to an early lead if they are to keep this all up. Cousins is 0-3 against the Bears as a member of the Vikings.

Chicago (5-4 ATS) is in the midst of a three-game losing streak. If they are going to avoid their second losing streak in as many seasons (and protect their streak against the Vikings) they will need a few things. First, figure out the ground attack as Minnesota is slightly worse at defending the run. They were already struggling to run and David Montgomery is out this week with a concussion. Could we see a Cordarrelle Patterson revenge game? Second, figure out how to protect Nick Foles. Minnesota was already vulnerable to the pass and is set to be down Cameron Dantzler at corner. 

Matt Nagy is 4-0 as a head coach against Mike Zimmer. His team has a better record too. Still, the dam feels about ready to burst. Despite all of that, the pick is the Bears plus the points. It’s not all sentimentality (admitted Bears fan here). Cook has struggled against the Bears as much as Cousins has. A one-game reprieve from the recent doldrums right before the bye is a very Bears thing to do. The under is, again, the reluctant play. Chicago suppresses their own offense even better than they do opponents. Hard to see Lazor fixing it all in one week.

Free Agency Best and Worst: AFC South

Our fifth stop on our tour squaring the best and worst moves in NFL free agency, the AFC South. We’ve already gone through both the AFC and NFC North. Likewise for the AFC and NFC East. The AFC South was arguably the toughest division in football just a couple of seasons ago. Now, it is a division mostly in transition but one that should still be a dog fight.

Best and Worst of NFL Free Agency: AFC South

Houston Texans

Best Move: None

Yea. This isn’t a cop-out or laziness. The Houston Texans have had one of the weirdest offseasons in recent memory. After giving away arguably the best wide receiver in the game, Houston (led by head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien) did well just to not trade away the franchise in Deshaun Watson, though it’s hard to believe they’re building trust either.

There does appear to be a method to the madness or at least a strategy for navigating what is sure to be an adjustment period for Watson. They added Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb to a group that will still return Kenny Stills, Will Fuller, and Keke Coutee. Fuller and Coutee have struggled to stay healthy (as has Cooks) and Stills has always been a complementary option.

Worst Move: Swapping Receivers

This is a little bit of piggybacking. Taking on David Johnson’s contract certainly qualifies. But this deserves its own section. Let’s go to the tape: Hopkins is a three-time All-Pro, four-time Pro Bowler, and has 315 catches for 4115 yards with 31 touchdowns over the last three seasons. Cooks has none of the accolades and caught 187 balls for 2869 yards and 14 scores.

Production on the field is dependant upon being on the field; something Cooks has struggled with. Nuk has missed all of two games in one more NFL season than Cooks, who has missed time with numerous injuries, not the least of which being multiple concussions. Aside from a change philosophically (and an out in Cooks’ contract in 2021), the benefits are hard to find.

Next Move: Protect the Franchise

Watson is second in the NFL in sacks taken over the last three seasons, trailing only Russell Wilson. This is especially notable because the former Clemson Tiger missed more than half of his rookie season with a torn ACL and is only in second place by 17 sacks. He even led the league in the category in 2018.

When the Texans traded for Laremy Tunsil, the seemed to be moving towards correcting a fatal flaw. Trading away Watson’s top weapon isn’t doing any favors and Tunsil wound up leading the NFL in penalties. Houston still needs an infusion of talent and should look to do so in a draft rife with interior line talent. For what it’s worth, it’s also full of talented wide receivers.

Indianapolis Colts

Best Move: Old Man Rivers

Any time a team adds a Hall of Fame quarterback to their roster it has to set the bar for grading their free-agent class. The Indianapolis Colts courting and subsequent signing of Philip Rivers is no different. They tried to make do with Jacoby Brissett following Andrew Luck’s abrupt retirement, even giving the former New England Patriot a short extension.

Brissett is no Luck and he isn’t Rivers either so the upgrade is obvious. It is a shift in philosophies for Indy and head coach Frank Reich. They have largely been a ball-control offense, playing at their pace and fielding a solid defense. Rivers is the definition of a gunslinger and a talkative one at that. It will be interesting to watch this marriage in 2020.

Worst Move: Missing Out on Diggs

In stark contrast to their division mates in Texas, it is rather difficult to find a flaw in the offseason the Colts have had. They got a new field general, kept their offensive line together, and traded for a solidifying presence along their defensive line. The one thing they “failed” (quotes because it’s subjective) to do is give Rivers ample weapons as he enjoyed with the Los Angeles Chargers.

Stefon Diggs would have made a perfect option. His versatility would have allowed him to be the short-area weapon a la Keenan Allen but he is also explosive enough to be the downfield threat that Mike Williams was. Instead, Rivers will lean on T.Y. Hilton who dealt with injuries last season and is somehow already 30 years old. There weren’t many misses for Indy but this opportunity might be one.

Next Move: Find Another Corner

Indy signed former Minnesota Vikings corner Xavier Rhodes in free agency to replace the departed Pierre Desir alongside Rock Ya-Sin and Kenny Moore. The problem is Rhodes, who will be 30 when the season starts, allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete over 80 percent of their passes in his direction.

Minnesota’s defense was once among the best in the game but they have slipped of late, falling from third in passing yards allowed in 2018 to 15th  in 2019. Indy finished the season ranked 23rd so expecting Rhodes to be a stabilizing presence is probably a stretch at best and a recipe for disaster at worst.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Best Move: Moving Foles

When the Jacksonville Jaguars signed Nick Foles to a four-year, $88 million contract the thought was they overpaid for an average quarterback who had a magical run. After one season and Gardner Minshew, that thought has largely remained the same. What has changed is who will be paying Foles going forward.

Jacksonville managed to extract a draft pick from the Chicago Bears for the journeyman quarterback, reuniting him a veritable who’s who of his former coaches including John DeFilippo who was the Jags offensive coordinator last season. Kudos to general manager David Caldwell for actually getting something for Foles, let alone a fairly valuable mid-round pick.

Worst Move: Sticking with Marrone

Making coaching changes for the sake of changing coaches is never the way to go. But the fact of the matter is coaches have been fired who have accomplished much more than Doug Marrone has. Our first section dedicated to a coach, this is not advocating for anyone to lose their job. But when assessing offseasons, it’s fair to question if Jacksonville should’ve moved on.

Marrone is 21-27 in three full seasons down in Duval. This is on-brand for him; he went 15-17 in his two seasons at the helm for the Buffalo Bills. Jacksonville ranked 31st and 26th in points the past two seasons and his once stout defense has been parted out because of cap and culture issues. Loyalty to Marrone could keep the Jaguars in neutral in 2020.

Next Move: Replenish the Cupboard

With 12 selections in the 2020 NFL Draft and a team seemingly stuck in place, Jacksonville needs to get back to what got them the buzz they had a couple of seasons ago. They have to get some talent back on the roster, namely on that defense. And to be even more specific they need to get their secondary at least close to what it was when Jalen Ramsey was still in town.

Jacksonville brought in Rashaan Melvin to replace the departed A.J. Bouye who bolted for the Denver Broncos. That is really a lateral move and not a particularly good one. This draft has got some talent at the top at the position so it would be wise for Caldwell and Co. to get back to what got them to this point.

Tennessee Titans

Best Move: Not Overcommitting to Henry

The sentiment around paying top dollar for a running back (giving them a second contract) is well documented. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who would say that’s a good idea. So the Tennessee Titans slapping the franchise tag on Derrick Henry almost makes too much sense. After all, his 300 carries, 1500 yards, and 16 scores all led the league. He’s still a runningback.

Christian McCaffrey just finagled the Carolina Panthers for a record-setting contract. Yes, he became the first player to have 2500 yards rushing and receiving in his first three years, that hasn’t helped the Panthers win much. Tennessee rode Henry’s legs far more than their quarterback’s arm. But they still had the wherewithal to not overpay for diminishing returns.

Worst Move: Overcommitting to Tannehill

No one can deny the impact switching from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill had on the Titans. For example, Henry averaged 3.68 yards per tote with Mariota under. That number jumped to 5.92 with Tannehill, no small feat. Tennessee looked beyond his raw stats and rewarded him with a lucrative, averaging just under $30 million per year.

If Tennessee had looked at Tannehill’s raw stats, at least those from Miami, they might not have been so generous. First, he dealt with injuries in his last three years, an issue Tennessee had with Mariota. But his career even before then could be described as mediocre with even his best of seasons leading to a .500 record. The Titans get great marks for their handling of Henry. Not so much with Tannehill.

Next Move: Repeat Success

This section was close to suggesting Tennessee go hunting for their next franchise passer; sort of a Brett FavreAaron Rodgers situation. Instead, in much broader terms, they need to recapture their 2019 magic. That won’t be easy despite the simplistic appearance of their attack.

Henry isn’t likely to have the stretch he had from Week 7 on and the returns on backs who had 300-plus touches the season before is also ugly (take note, Panthers fans). Teams are going to focus on putting more on Tannehill’s plate. He had flashes of being able to answer the call last season, but consistency hasn’t been his forte. Titans fans better hope that has changed.