That’s the goal.
Both are forces in their respective sports. They are two of the most dominant playoff performers at their respective positions. Both are imposing physical specimens.
Both are also home run hitters.
Wait. Henry is a running back, not a baseball player. How does he hit home runs?
Naturally, Henry’s back-breaking runs are the equivalent to Bonds sending a fastball into McCovey Cove.
Over the last two seasons, Henry has a league-leading six rushes of 50 or more yards, resulting in five touchdowns and one 66-yard run in the 2020 playoffs.
He also leads the NFL in 40-yard rushes, 30-yard rushes, 20-yard rushes, and 10-yard rushes. No one in the NFL is better at breaking the run than Henry.
From a baseball perspective, Bonds is very similar. He holds the single-season record with 73 home runs, and he holds the career record with 762 total blasts.
Defenses often go to extreme measures to contain Henry and Bonds. For Henry, this comes in the form of loaded boxes and beefier defensive lines. For example, the Baltimore Ravens added Calais Campbell just for an eventual matchup with Henry and the Tennessee Titans. It worked in January.
For Bonds, pitchers just let him stroll 90 feet to first base on 688 occasions, an MLB record. Bonds took 1,870 unintentional strolls to first base. Factoring in the playoffs, add 52 more walks including 21 intentional.
For NFL defenses, there is not an equivalent to a walk. If there was an option to concede three free yards on any given play, NFL defenses would likely opt for that in many circumstances. Instead, the defense must buckle up.
2021 Derrick Henry: A True Wrecking Machine
How Henry finds success
Henry, like Bonds, is well-rounded. Not every run is a home run. Henry’s biggest strength (outside of his home run ability) is avoiding negative plays as much as possible. To draw a parallel to baseball, these plays are strikeouts. Bonds struck out 100 times in a season once (as a rookie in 1986) and had a strikeout rate below league-average in every subsequent season. In 2004, Bonds had a higher home run rate than strikeout rate.
Negative runs help the defense and often force the Titans into passing situations.
Henry does not hit a home run with every carry, but if his 5.4 yards per carry is anything to go off of, he is a reliable singles and doubles hitter. These sorts of runs are sometimes “wins” for the opponent. If, on a third-and-six, Henry gains five yards, the defense forces Mike Vrabel to make a decision. If Tennessee elects to not run on fourth down, the defense forces someone other than Henry to beat them.
In other cases, these singles and doubles can be back-breakers. If Henry gains three yards on a third-and-short, that is the equivalent to an RBI groundout or a sacrifice fly. Sure, Henry did not necessarily beat you, but he extended the drive for his team.
Additionally, Henry rarely fumbles. Across more than 1,300 carries, he has lost just six fumbles.
Stopping 2021 Derrick Henry
In the last two seasons, it has been rare for Henry to be entirely shut down. Between October 10th, 2019, and January 3rd, 2021, Henry played in 28 games. His lowest yards per carry in that stretch was 3.00 against the Buffalo Bills in 2020. He had two rushing touchdowns, and Tennessee won by 26.
In the games that Henry has been shut down (Denver Broncos, 2019 and Baltimore, 2021 playoffs), Henry has been unable to hit a home run or even a double. Against Baltimore in particular, Henry did not even have a 10-yard run. Henry averaged just over two yards per carry against Baltimore. Most of his carries were weak ground balls, easily translated into outs.
Flashing back to the regular-season matchup between Baltimore and Tennessee, the Ravens did an excellent job at limiting Henry. In regulation, there were few extra-base hits and no home runs for Henry. The dam broke in overtime when Henry galloped almost 30 yards to end the game.
That’s the risk with Henry. You can shut him down for 29 carries, but his 30th carry could be a touchdown. In a way, he is the ultimate scratch-off ticket. There is a chance he does nothing. There is a chance he wins a small prize. However, there are millions of dollars if the time is right. Henry lulls the defense to sleep before swiftly implanting a 50-yard knife deep into that team’s hopes and dreams.
2021 Derrick Henry Prediction
Barring injury, Henry should be a lock to lead the NFL in rushing yards for the third straight season. In 2020, Henry racked up a mind-boggling 2,027 yards, and he has a real shot to add his name to the 2,000-yard club again in 2021. Henry will again be the focus of the offense, and with an extra game, he will pressure Eric Dickerson’s 37-year-old rushing record of 2,105 yards.
Watch 2021 Derrick Henry closely. Look at how many times he turns a loss into a short gain, a short gain into a solid gain, or a solid gain into a home run. Like Bonds on the base paths, Henry is liable to steal when given the chance.
Even if Henry is being shut down by a particular opponent, keep your eyes peeled for the next scratch-off ticket; he may redeem it for six points.
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