Running backs aren't supposed to matter. They are supposed to be replaceable, more or less. You really shouldn't even pay running backs.
Unless your running back is Derrick Henry.
I can count easily on one hand the number of running backs I feel are worth paying $10 million per year from a team-building perspective. For what Henry does for the Titans and what he does to opposing defenses, he's at the top of the list.
That was never more apparent than in Sunday's 42-36 overtime win against Houston, where Henry galloped for 212 yards on 22 carries and threw in 52 receiving yards on two catches.
Henry rushed for more than 100 yards for the 10th time out of his last 14 contests. Always a massive back, his 2019 renaissance coincided with Ryan Tannehill being inserted as the starting quarterback. And make no mistake: Tannehill should be in your top-5 MVP rankings through six weeks.
But Henry is, without question, the most valuable member of the offense. Tannehill can only operate so well out of play action because defenses respect—nay, fear—Henry. At 6-foot-3 and nearly 250 pounds, Henry reached a top speed of 21.62 MPH on his 94-yard touchdown run. It was the fourth-fastest speed a ball carrier has reached this season, and it's equal parts impressive, comical and terrifying.
It was a wild Week 6 Sunday and there's a lot to go over. John Breech and Ryan Wilson join host Will Brinson on the Pick Six Podcast to break everything down; listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.
Henry's ability to get yards after contact is second to none among active players. How he imposes his will against defenses has a cumulative effect unequaled at his position. When it comes to team-specific value at running back, only Alvin Kamara is in his tier, in my humble opinion.
It speaks well of the Titans organization and GM Jon Robinson that they didn't let Henry play this season on the franchise tag. What I expected them to do—and frankly what I would have done—was run Henry into the ground in 2020, just like 2019. I'd see if he held up and, come March 2021, figure out if I needed to pick up the can that I had kicked down the road as it relates to a long-term contract.
But the Titans brass realized Henry's value to the team. This offseason they signed him to a four-year deal worth $50 million with $25.5 million in guarantees that made him at the time a top-three running back in terms of average annual salary.
The Titans did right by Henry. And with Henry playing a major part of their 5-0 start, he's doing right by the team.
Patriots' lack of practice shows
The Patriots looked like a team that barely got to practice this week. They had the better quarterback, coach and defense. And still lost 18-12 at home to Denver. I think Tennessee spoiled us on Tuesday when they took care of Buffalo after 12 days off, and this is really what a team without practice is supposed to look like.
"Well, it was a big challenge," Bill Belichick said after the game. "Playing without guys, getting guys hurt, moving around, had some guys that hadn't played together much, hadn't practiced together much. So we need to get on the field, we need to practice, we need to develop some continuity as a team, but especially there."
More Week 6 insider notes
- It's taken me long enough but I'll say it: it's time to stop calling the Chicago Bears lucky. I did it for more than a month and 1) it never mattered and 2) it's no longer true. The Bears are 5-1 with safe quarterback play and elite defensive performances. That combination is recipe for close games, but winning 83% of their games doesn't make them 'lucky.'
- I've been hard on Philip Rivers, but he deserves his due here. He erased a 21-0 second-quarter deficit to trail 24-21 at halftime. Then he got his Colts the lead to start the fourth quarter and wound up passing for 371 yards. He beat the Bengals and not the Seahawks, but 20 minutes into the game I was certain we'd see Jacoby Brissett warming up on the sideline soon enough.
- Ron Rivera going for two to win the game against New York made all the sense in the world to me. From my perspective, he has the inferior team led by the inferior quarterback hanging around in the game. In those instances, don't prolong the game. Try to end it as soon as you can. You can do that with one play from the 2-yard line, and the play didn't work. Folks may make a big deal about the play call and, sure, OK. But going for the win there makes plenty of sense.