In an era of football where NFL running backs are about as plug-and-play as they come, the Tennessee Titans remain a throwback with an offense built through a punishing run game that gets stronger as the game goes on.
Sunday's injury, however, could force an immediate change of plans.
Titans running back Derrick Henry could miss several weeks, possibly even the rest of the regular season and beyond according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Henry was back in the MVP discussion this season, moving up at WynnBET Sportsbook from 50/1 to as high as 18/1 last week.
Can Henry be replaced? It's hard to say, but in the short term, the Titans are in trouble. Tennessee's game plan starts and ends around Henry, who was on pace for well over 400 carries and 2,000 rushing yards this season. His 10 rushing touchdowns put him ahead of nine other NFL teams on his own!
In fact, Henry is so paramount to the Titans' success on offense, that he's made up nearly 80% of the team's entire rushing yards this season, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
The numbers are even more eye-opening when you consider Henry's success relative to other running backs on the team. Titans' running backs not named Derrick Henry only have 11 rushing attempts all season for 49 yards!
A trade or free agent signing to replace him seems likely, but where would Tennessee turn to? Here are three names worth considering.
3 Running Backs the Titans Should Consider to Replace Derrick Henry
- Ronald Jones
- David Montgomery
- Adrian Peterson
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a plethora of running backs, with Leonard Fournette leading the way over Jones, Giovani Bernard and Ke'Shawn Vaughn.
Fournette has 101 total rushing attempts in eight games, averaging 4.3 YPC along with 30 receptions. He can do it all for them, but they also have positional depth behind him.
Jones has still gotten work, but just over 40% of what Fournette has had. Like Henry, he's a downhill, powerful runner who thrives in the inside running game and would be a very ideal fit schematically for Tennessee.
In a Super Bowl-or-bust season, I wouldn't fault Tampa for holding onto a very solid insurance policy, especially considering Fournette's injury history, but to get potential draft capital for a backup running back feels very ideal for a club with a ton of veterans on it.
The former Bears' third-round draft pick was off to a great start this season before hyperextending his knee in Week 4 against the Lions. He's rushed for over 100 yards twice in four games and been one of the few bright spots in Chicago's offense.
But has he become expendable? Some would argue the success of sixth-round rookie Khalil Herbert could allow the Bears to part ways with one of their best player on offense in a rebuilding year, and collect on some much needed draft pick sacrificed by general manager Ryan Pace throughout his tenure in Chicago.
I doubt Chicago makes this move, but running backs on rookie deals offer by far the best investment for teams. While nobody offers a "king's ransom" for running backs anymore, I think the Bears could re-invest well if they decided to move him.
To be completely honest, I hadn't considered Peterson as a candidate until NFL Network's Ian Rapoport mentioned that the Titans are expected to work him out this week.
The 36-year old running back still rushed for 604 yards in 10 starts last season with a terrible Lions team, scoring seven touchdowns in the process. Peterson, while one of the greatest to ever do it, won't be able to stay on the field the same way Henry was. Last season, Peterson had a maximum of 22 carries in a game, in Week 3 vs. Arizona. He only had 15-plus carries three times the rest of the way.
With an offensive line that's far improved as well as a system that's much more conducive to how he plays, I actually don't hate the idea of a flyer on AP, but they'll need more than just him to survive.