Ravens

Ravens keying in on Derrick Henry, ‘one of the best backs to ever play’

Ravens

The task of stopping Titans running back Derrick Henry, both literally and figuratively, is a big one.

It’s a challenge the Ravens have, in pieces through the last two games, risen to. But like every other team in the NFL, the Ravens have fallen flat as the Titans continue to hand the football to Henry.

In the last two games against the Ravens, he’s run for 133 and 195 yards on 28 and 30 carries, respectively. In both of those games, the Ravens lost.

Now, the Ravens will get their rematch against Henry and the Titans on Sunday in an AFC Wild Card Game. This time, the Ravens will have defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams in the mix to help out, two players they didn’t have in the matchup on November 22. 

The problem, though, isn’t going away no matter who the Ravens have in their lineup.

“Derrick Henry is one of the best running backs to ever play this game, and he’s in the zone right now,” Campbell said Wednesday. “So, yes — I take pride in the challenge of lining up and trying to shut him down.”

The problem for Campbell and the Ravens is that almost no team has been able to shut down Henry all season.

He ran for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns in 16 games, which includes 10 games where he tallied more than 100 yards on the ground. He’s not much of a threat out of the backfield as a receiver, as he’s got just 19 catches so far this season. But his straight-ahead style is more than enough to keep defensive coaches and players up at night.

 

“It’s the greatest challenge every play,” defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said. “Let’s make no mistake about it — he’s the best running back in football. He’s gone for over 2,000 yards, two years in a row. We know it. He knows it. We’re just getting ready to go for the challenge ahead on Sunday.”

The issue with Henry is a simple one: He’s an athletic freak.

At 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds, tackling Henry is akin to tackling a tree out of the ground straight from its roots. There are occasions when Henry is the heaviest non-lineman on the field, and the problem is he moves like a safety does.

Henry has surprising speed for his size and can outrun anyone on the field with a quick burst of speed or a mad dash down the sideline. When he hits the line of scrimmage, which he typically blows through, he’s moving at a speed that’s as fast as some of the lightest players on the field.

“He’s a hard runner,” Williams said. “Obviously, he’s a strong runner. He is his own blocker. He definitely has a lot of things in a great running back, and we’re prepared to try to get to him as much as we possibly can. Like you said, I wasn’t there last game. Also, I don’t think Calais was there as well. There are two juggernauts there that are coming back that weren’t there the last time. We’re prepared and we’re ready to go out and have a great game on Sunday.”

A year ago, former Ravens safety Earl Thomas became an internet meme when Henry stiff armed him and turned him around in the process. But it hasn’t been just Thomas, that’s suffered a fate similar at the hands, or arms, of Henry.

Then, when defenses crowd the box the Titans will run play-action and use Henry as a decoy. Either that, or they’ll just let Henry plow through opposing defenses on his own.

“It’s football,” cornerback Marcus Peters said. “You approach it the same way: You have to get him on the ground. It doesn’t matter how ugly it is, how beautiful it is, but you have to get him on the ground. That’s the biggest thing — we get him on the ground, we slow him down, we fight for the next play.”