While all injuries in sports are hurtful and create a negative impact, some have the potential to impact an entire division, conference, or the league itself. On Monday morning (Nov. 1st), as news broke that running back Derrick Henry had suffered a severe foot injury, a massive ripple effect came across not only Henry's Tennessee Titans, but the rest of the AFC South division, and AFC itself.
How Will The Titans Survive Without Derrick Henry?
The Titans' star was in midst of having another all-time season as he led all running backs in rushing yards (937) by nearly 400 yards and was the only rusher with double-digit touchdowns (10). For an offense so dependent on Henry, questions immediately pop up about how the reigning AFC South champion will survive without their greatest offensive threat.
Despite bringing in Julio Jones over the offseason, the Titans’ passing attack has been lackluster as quarterback Ryan Tannehill has thrown only ten touchdowns halfway through this season. Similarly, the Titans lack a capable replacement for Henry, thus demonstrating a startling lack of preparation for this kind of nightmare scenario.
While it's understandable why you would use last season's Offensive Player of the Year as much as possible, it's still odd that the Titans' backup running backs only received a combined 11 carries. With Henry no longer able to play in the meantime, Tennessee has signed Adrian Peterson, who instantly becomes the NFL’s oldest and most-pedigreed running back.
The NFL's fifth-highest rushing yards leader may be 36-years-old, but he has been productive whenever given a chance to play. Over his last three seasons with Washington and Detroit, Peterson has averaged over 800 rushing yards and scored 19 rushing touchdowns while carrying the ball at least 150 times per season. It seems very unlikely that the Titans will drastically alter their offensive attack, so when they do turn to Peterson, just expect the future Hall of Famer to be the bell-cow moving forward.
But when looking beyond just Tennessee, Henry's absence could also impact the AFC playoff race. Even though the Colts inexplicably lost to the Titans on Sunday, despite having a 14-point lead, they're only three games behind them with nine weeks left in the season. While the Titans are currently the No. 1 seed, they only have a half-game lead over the Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders, and Baltimore Ravens.
If Henry isn't ruled out for the season but is gone for several weeks, the Titans will have to pull all of the stops to remain in playoff contention until Henry returns to action. And that reality starts now for them.