Raiders brace for Titans’ running game, led by ‘machine’ Derrick Henry

NFL teams can hold only so many padded practices during the season, per the collective bargaining agreement, and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said the Raiders used their last this week.

A main reason: Derrick Henry, the Titans running back that Guenther’s defense will be trying to bring down Sunday.

“You have to make sure that you’re tackling and doing those things in practice,” Guenther said, “because he is a good back. He’s a big, hard-running guy.”

Indeed, Henry is big — at 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds — and hard to stop. In his past three games, all Titans wins, Henry has rushed for 496 yards, averaging 7.3 yards per carry.

It makes for a matchup Sunday in Oakland of two physical rushing offenses featuring lead backs who played at Alabama.

Henry, the fourth-year back who won a Heisman Trophy with the Crimson Tide in 2015, ranks third in the league in rushing with 1,140 yards this season. Josh Jacobs, the rookie first-round pick of the Raiders, ranks fifth with 1,061 yards.

Jacobs became the first Raiders rookie to reach the 1,000-yard mark last Sunday at Kansas City. But Jacobs, who has been playing with an injured shoulder since Week 7, missed two practices during the week and is listed as questionable for Sunday, the first time he has carried an injury designation into a game since Week 8.

On Friday, head coach Jon Gruden said the Raiders would be ready to use running backs Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington more “if (Jacobs) can’t go.”

Much less uncertain is what awaits the Raiders on defense.

While the Titans have won five of six games since replacing Marcus Mariota with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, their offense starts with Henry and the running game. The Titans are averaging a league-low 28 passing attempts per game. And Tannehill, who leads qualifiers in passer rating (113.9) and yards per attempt (9.1) has attempted just 59 throws during the Titans’ three-game winning streak.

“It’s no secret that we’re handing the ball to Derrick a lot right now,” Tannehill told reporters in Tennessee during the past week. “He’s gaining a lot of yards and then off of that comes the play-action and shots down the field.”

Last Sunday against the Colts, Henry became the fifth NFL player to rush for at least 145 yards and a touchdown in three straight games. The others: Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson and Adrian Peterson.

“I think the secret sauce in Henry is he’s got all the talent and size and running instincts, but he never tires,” Gruden said. “He does not get tired. He’s a machine, man.”

In Week 10 against the Chiefs, Henry had 48 yards rushing at halftime and 140 yards on 14 carries in the second half. In Week 12 against the Jaguars he had 26 yards in the first half and 133 yards on 10 second-half carries. His five touchdowns in his past three games have all come after halftime.

Titans (7-5) at Raiders (6-6)

Time: 1:25 p.m. TV/Radio:Channel: 5Channel: 13Channel: 46 / 740, 106.9

Spotlight on: Right tackle Brandon Parker. The Raiders gave Trent Brown a then-record contract for an offensive lineman this spring to come in and play right tackle. Parker is the player Brown replaced. A third-round pick in 2018, Parker started 12 games as a rookie and had his struggles, including allowing 8.5 sacks. He has played just 36 snaps on offense this season but with Brown injured will get the start over David Sharpe, who replaced Brown in Weeks 7 and 9. Parker could see plenty of edge rusher Harold Landry, who leads the Titans with nine sacks, on Sunday.

Injury notes: Raiders — Tackle Trent Brown (pectoral), linebacker Kyle Wilber (ankle) and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow (rib) are out; running back Josh Jacobs (shoulder) and linebacker Marquel Lee (toe) are questionable. Titans — Linebacker Daren Bates (shoulder), wide receiver Adam Humphries (ankle), cornerbacks Adoree Jackson (foot) and LeShaun Sims (ankle) are out; wide receiver Tajae Sharpe (hamstring) is questionable.

Things to watch:

Wide receiver Tyrell Williams had 118 yards on four catches, including a 75-yard touchdown, in a game against the Titans last season. Tennessee put top cornerback Malcolm Butler on IR in November and won’t have starter Jackson and backup Sims on Sunday due to injuries.

The Titans lead the NFL in red-zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns on 71.9% of their possessions inside the 20. The Raiders rank last in red-zone defense, allowing touchdowns on 66.7% of those drives.

The Titans lead the league with four blocked kicks, including two last week against the Colts. Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson had a kick blocked for the first time in the NFL last Sunday against the Chiefs and has missed six kicks in his past five games.

— Matt Kawahara

“He’s just a hard back to tackle — especially later on as the game goes,” defensive tackle P.J. Hall said. “We have to make sure we get him before he gets rolling, basically.

“They’re a good, physical team, good O-line. So we have to bring the physicality to them, too, throughout the whole game. Second half, that’s when they start to get rolling, so that’s when we have to be stronger.”

As vital as the running game has been for the Titans, head coach Mike Vrabel said he pointed out to his team this week: The Raiders run it more.

“They commit to running it almost 28 times a game and they’ve got a big, strong, physical line that seems to have embraced that challenge,” Vrabel said.

Jacobs, who said on social media during the week that he has been playing with a fractured shoulder since Week 7, has appeared unaffected. He has gone over 100 rushing yards in four of his past seven games. And, according to Pro Football Focus, he leads the NFL with 61 broken tackles on 218 carries.

“He’s very dynamic, he’s got great vision, great quickness,” Vrabel said. “He’s able to run hard. And it’s going to be a great challenge for us to stop the run.”

One that, to the Raiders, should sound familiar.

Matt Kawahara is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: mkawahara@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @matthewkawahara



Source link

admin

leave a comment

Create Account



Log In Your Account