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Raiders-Titans Week 3: Preparing for Derrick Henry

This is a first for Raiders’ DC Patrick Graham

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Buffalo Bills
Derrick Henry
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry is off to an uncharacteristically slow start as the defending AFC No. 1 playoff seed is staggering at 0-2.

Henry has just 107 yards on 34 carries for a 3.1 per carry average. Last season, Henry averaged 4.3 yards per tote in an injury-shortened season. In 2020, he had a monster season with 2,027 yards and averaging 5.4 yards per carry.

As he prepares to face Henry, Las Vegas defensive coordinator Patrick Graham isn’t being lulled in by the punishing tailback’s slow start. Graham is buckling in as he is game planning against Henry for the first time in anything but a preseason game.

“I’ve never gone [Derrick] Henry before, so this is interesting. I’ve admired from afar because as a defensive coach, there’s 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,” Graham said this week. “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. I think the toughness of that whole team, that whole organization, starting with [Mike] Vrabel, J-Rob [Jon Robinson], those guys, they’ve built a tough football team. They built a real tough football team. You know, guys with good size and it’s going to be football, like it’s going to be fun to be a part of. I’m looking forward to it and I heard the atmosphere down there is really good.”

In the Raiders’ first two games, they saw the opponents best players, Chargers’ quarterback Justin Hebert and Cardinals’ quarterback Kyler Murray, take over at times. Graham knows Henry has the capability to do the same for the Titans on Sunday. Staying fundamentally sound is the ley to keeping the 6-foot-3, 247-pound Henry from taking over, Graham said.

“Tackling. Tackling is going to be a tough deal. I mean, this is a big man. Like I said, I only saw him one time live and in person. He is a big man,” Graham said. “There’s not there’s not a lot of people on the planet that look like him. So, the 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. 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. They just keep building, and they start wearing on you, so you got to be ready to tackle them for four quarters and understand it’s not going to be a one man show. 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.”