The behind enemy lines series focuses on an individual opponent each week that is worthy of special attention. This week the Colts have an old friend coming into Lucas Oil, Titans star running back Derrick Henry.
Derrick Henry has been a thorn in the Colts' side for the last 5 years. Henry has started this season off slow the first two weeks, but in the last game he played, he showed flashes of his old dominant self. He had 20 carries and 85 yards, and a touchdown. He showed an ability many thought he didn’t have, and that’s catching 5 passes for 58 yards as well. In the Colts' last 5 matches against the Titans, Derrick Henry has eclipsed 100 yards in 4 of them and has 4 TDs.
The Titans' entire game plan is predicated on the success of Derrick Henry. Their ability to throw the ball is heavily reliant on play action, which works due to their powerful running game. Tennesse uses Henry primarily as a downhill runner through the A and B gaps, and will at times try to get him in space by tossing him the ball on the perimeter - forcing smaller players to bring him down. The Titans like to force pass-rushing specialists to try to set the edge and challenge their ability to contain.
The Colts are currently the NFL's top run defending team. With Gus Bradley's new scheme, many expected the Colts to take a noticeable step back in this area, but that hasn’t happened. Through three weeks, Grover Stewart has arguably been the best run-defending nose tackle in the league. His teammates on the defensive line have been effective as well. Clyde Edwards-Helaire entered Week 3 averaging over 7 YPC. Against the Colts, he had seven carries for 0 yards.
#90 Grover Stewart has been playing like one of the best run defenders in the NFL so far in 2022 pic.twitter.com/W5pzXtfrRm— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) September 26, 2022
Henry hasn’t had the same juice on film this year as he did before his injury. He has shown flashes, but his averages have declined since his return. The recipe to stopping Henry isn’t a difficult one schematically, it’s transferring it to the field that makes it tough. The Colts will have to play more base defense. It’s essential to have an extra linebacker out to help fill gaps. Bobby Okereke, Zaire Franklin, and EJ Speed must fill the rushing lanes. Tackling well in open space will be huge as Henry gains significant yards after contact.
The Colts shouldn’t be discouraged if Henry gets over 100 yards if it takes him over 25 carries to do it. The Titans will continue to feed him as long as the game is close, but one way to take him away completely is to jump out and get ahead early. The Colts will have their hands full with the former 2,000+ yard rusher, but if these past 3 weeks are any indication of how they will perform, they’ll be ready.