Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill Are a Perfect Match

Ryan Phillips
Dec 22, 2020, 5:04 PM EST
Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans v Jacksonville Jaguars
Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans v Jacksonville Jaguars | Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
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The Tennesse Titans are 10-4 and tied for the top spot in the AFC South with the Indianapolis Colts. A large part of the team's success this season must be attributed to running back Derrick Henry and quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Both players struggled early in their careers, then they were shoved together in the same backfield and became an unlikely success story.

Henry struggled with consistency during his first three seasons in the league, often losing carries to inferior backs like Dion Lewis and DeMarco Murray. But something clicked in 2019 and he became the most fearsome running back in the NFL. Once Tannehill settled into the offense after taking over for Marcus Mariota that same season, Henry exploded.

The following stat is incredible and tells the story of this pairing:

What that tells me is the threat of Tannehill is forcing defenses to respect the passing game in a way they didn't when Mariota was under center. But thanks to Henry's running ability, Tannehill has also had the two best seasons of his career. The relationship goes both ways.

After struggling through six years with the Miami Dolphins, Tannehill joined the Titans as a backup in 2019. He wound up replacing the struggling Mariota. He played in 12 games and set career-highs in completion percentage (70.3), passer rating (117.5), Total QBR (67.2) and yards per attempt (9.6). He's continued to excel in 2020, completing 66.5 percent of his passes for 3,482 yards, with a career-best 31 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He's fifth in the NFL in yards per attempt (8.1), fourth in passer rating (110.4) and fourth in Total QBR (78.0). Those are elite numbers for a guy many thought was done after his struggles in South Beach.

The Titans' defense has allowed 390.5 yards per game, which ranks 27th in the league. That's not great and those struggles have pushed the offense to pick up the slack. Led by Henry and Tannehill that has happened. In fact, Henry is in range of becoming the eighth player in NFL history to top 2,000 rushing yards in a single season.

Though he's been overlooked as an MVP candidate, Henry is having his best campaign. Through 14 games he's set career records for rushing yards (1,679), carries (321) and yards per carry (5.2), while amassing 15 touchdowns. He needs 321 yards over the final two games to break the 2,000-yard barrier, and is one rushing touchdown away from tying a career-high. He's also made a habit of stiff-arming guys into oblivion.

The Titans were questioned when they handed Henry and Tannehill each monster contract extensions over the offseason. Henry got a four-year, $50 million deal with $25.5 million guaranteed, while Tannehill was given four years and $118 million with $91 million guaranteed. So far, both guys have proven worth the cost. And they're better because they've been paired together.

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