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Titans’ Derrick Henry talks stiff-arming Josh Norman, says it’s ‘scary’ how good A.J. Brown is going to be

Derrick Henry just became the eighth running back ever with more than 2,000 rushing yards. He is the back-to-back rushing champion. Yet all anyone wants to ask him about is when he gave Bills defensive back Josh Norman arguably the most memorable stiff arm in NFL history.

Hey, we’re no different. It was among the many things we discussed with Henry during his interview on CBS Sports HQ prior to Super Bowl LV.

“After that stiff arm that’s the craziest my phone has ever been,” Henry said. “It took about three or four days to respond to every one, that’s how crazy my phone was going off.”

The play happened in Week 5 in Tennessee. The Titans had the ball around midfield on second down and 4, and Henry took a handoff and bounced it outside to his left.

Norman tried to cut Henry off before he could turn upfield, and then Henry hit Norman with a club move to his left shoulder. It was amazing. Henry, who is 6-foot-3, 247 pounds, used his right arm to basically flick away the 6-foot, 200-pound Norman.

Norman went flying horizontally in the air, and the Titans bench erupted. It might have been the most exciting 4-yard run of the season, only it was nullified by offsetting penalties. But that didn’t matter to Henry and Norman. 

Many gifs followed of Norman getting knocked around, and he doesn’t like to talk about the play. Henry, meanwhile, has no problem talking about his famous stiff arm.

“I don’t really have anyone else on my radar, but whenever the opportunity comes I’m definitely going to try and deliver a mean stiff arm,” Henry said.

Watch out NFL defenses in 2021. Henry is coming for you. And that’s great for Fantasy managers.

For the past two seasons, Henry has been outstanding. He was the rushing champion in 2019 and the No. 5 PPR running back with 303 carries for 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns, along with 18 catches for 206 yards and two touchdowns.

I didn’t expect him to have similar success in 2020, and he proved me wrong — in a big way. He joined O.J. Simpson (1973), Eric Dickerson (1984), Barry Sanders (1997), Terrell Davis (1998), Jamal Lewis (2003), Chris Johnson (2009) and Adrian Peterson (2012) as the only running backs in NFL history with 2,000 rushing yards in a season.

Henry’s 2,027 yards on 378 carries is fifth in a single season all-time behind Dickerson (2,105), Peterson (2,097), Lewis (2,066) and Sanders (2,053).

“It’s very cool to be a part of that unique group,” Henry said. “Guys I grew up idolizing, guys who are like my heroes. That doesn’t happen every day.”

Henry also added 17 rushing touchdowns, 19 receptions and 114 receiving yards, and he was the No. 3 PPR running back in 2020. I asked him how he can improve on that season and become a rushing champion for three years in a row.

“I’m working on it right now,” he said. “In the lab right now working for the 2021 season. Hopefully get that three peat. Always staying hungry. Always wanting to improve. I’m working on that right now, trying to get ready.”

There is one big change coming for the Titans this year. The offensive coordinator in charge of helping Henry have all this success the past two seasons, Arthur Smith, is now the head coach in Atlanta. He is being replaced by Todd Downing, who was promoted from tight ends coach.

Smith also was promoted from tight ends coach to offensive coordinator for Tennessee in 2019, so the Titans are hoping that move strikes gold twice. And Downing was the Raiders offensive coordinator in 2017.

Downing’s offense with the Raiders was tied for No. 17 that season and No. 25 in rushing, but he has better personnel with the Titans. His best running back with the Raiders in 2017 was 31-year-old Marshawn Lynch, who had 207 carries for 891 yards and seven touchdowns in 15 games, along with 20 catches for 151 yards.

Fantasy managers are expecting much more from Henry, and he should deliver if healthy. He will be drafted as a top-five overall pick in PPR, and I would draft him at No. 2 overall behind Christian McCaffrey in non-PPR leagues.

Henry said Downing should do well as Smith’s replacement.

“I’m very excited to have Todd as the offensive coordinator,” Henry said. “He knows the mindset and the identity of the way we want to play. I don’t think much will change as far as what we want to do on offense. He’ll bring his ideas and put a little spark on what he wants to do. It’s going to be great to see what’s in store.”

Henry also expects Smith to excel as the head coach of the Falcons.

“Arthur Smith, I wish him great success,” Henry said. “I think he’ll do a great job over there in Atlanta. We’ll definitely miss him. I’ve been with Arthur since I came into the league. He had us hitting on all cylinders on offense these last few years. I’m definitely appreciative of what he’s done. All the guys over there are going to love him. He’s going to have a lot of success.”

I asked Henry about two other topics of note for Fantasy managers that he knows a lot about: teammate A.J. Brown and Alabama running back Najee Harris.

Brown was the No. 7 PPR receiver in 2020 at 16.7 points per game, and Henry said he’s just getting started on what should be an outstanding career.

“This is his second season, and he’s been playing like he’s in the league for five or six years,” Henry said. “It’s scary how good he can be and how good he’s going to be. He works hard every day. He wants to be great. He wants to be one of the best. You can tell by the way he practices, and you see it in the games. I’m happy he’s my teammate. He’s going to continue to make a lot of plays and do a lot of great things in this league.”

Brown enters 2021 as a top-10 Fantasy receiver in all leagues, and he’s worth drafting as early as Round 3.

As for Harris, Henry is excited to see where he ends up to start his NFL career. Henry, who played at Alabama and won the Heisman Trophy in 2015, has high expectations for Harris. In 2020, Harris had 251 carries for 1,466 yards and 26 touchdowns, along with 43 catches for 425 yards and four scores.

“He has all the tools you need as a running back coming out of college,” Henry said. “He’s a first-round draft pick. He’s earned that right and earned that opportunity. (Clemson running back) Travis Etienne as well has earned that opportunity. But Najee is just a dynamic player. He can score from anywhere on the field. He can hurdle you. He can catch the ball. He blocks well. He has good feet. He’s a big back. He’s physical. He’s quick in and out of cuts. He’s the total package as a running back that you need to come in and make an impact to an organization.”

Harris and Etienne have the chance to be difference-makers in the NFL in Fantasy and reality, just like Henry. But most running backs don’t play the game like Henry does. Just ask Norman.

It’s hard to stop Henry, and we’ll see if he can lead the NFL in rushing for three years in a row. He’ll probably also have plenty of stiff arms for defenders while trying to make that happen.




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