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5 Questions with Music City Miracles: What is the best way to limit Derrick Henry?

Tennessee Titans v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The Week 2 contest between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans is quickly approaching. Although it’s early in the season, this game already has big implications in the AFC South, as the Jaguars (shockingly) can take sole possession of first place by starting 2-0 in the division.

To get a better picture on the 2020 Titans and see how these two divisional rivals match up we spoke with Terry Lambert of Music City Miracles — SB Nation’s website for all things Tennessee Titans.

Here is what he had to say:

1. After the Jaguars’ surprising upset win over the Colts, the AFC South may be a wide open race. The Titans are probably still the favorite to win it, but Tennessee looked a little shaky (especially in the kicking game) against the Denver Broncos. Come the end of the season, how do you see the division shaking out?

Terry: It still feels like a Tennessee vs. Houston Texans race to me. I don’t think anyone should discount what Deshaun Watson can do, though that offense is going to have to find their way without DeAndre Hopkins around. Tennessee feels like the most well-rounded team after keeping the core intact over the offseason. There were actually several positives that stood out to me during the Broncos game (Ryan Tannehill’s composure in crunch time, Corey Davis’ performance, the defense’s performance down two starters), so I’m still very much in on the Titans being the favorites in the AFC South.

2. Why do you think Derrick Henry, a Jacksonville-area native, has been so dominant in his career against the Jaguars, and what would you say is the best way to mitigate his impact on the game?

Terry: Quite simply I think he’s caught the Jaguars at the right time in the year, maybe at a period of time where they weren’t super motivated to compete. He’s built to break defenses, and some of his biggest games have come with the Jaguars out of the playoff picture.

He’s tougher to defend these days with A.J. Brown (whose status for Sunday is now up in the air) on the perimeter and Ryan Tannehill pulling the strings. Tennessee has a legitimate outside threat now that you can’t ignore, which only makes Henry more dangerous. To slow Henry, you’ve got to consistently set the edges. That’s something that the Broncos did fairly well, keeping him bottled up and unable to find space. Henry is an interesting player — it’s sort of odd to say you want to get such a big back in space, but once he gets going (as anyone reading this knows) nobody is all that interested in getting in front of him.

3. Do Titans fans (speaking as a general consensus) believe in Ryan Tannehill at quarterback? What does he do well and what does he need to improve on?

Terry: I think most believe he’s more than capable of being a secondary option in the offense to Henry. He’s a guy that can occasionally give you a big game and attack down the field. He executes off of play-action really well, obviously stemming from the Titans’ elite rushing attack. The Titans got in trouble last year when they got in obvious passing situations, like the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Tennessee has a proven formula of getting ahead, playing solid defense and riding Henry, but things get murkier when they have to primarily lean on the passing game. Tannehill is great at taking what’s given to him in favorable spots, but I’m not totally sold that he can consistently go make it happen by himself.

But for what the Titans need right now, he’s worth the money he’s being paid.

4. The Jaguars and Titans are heated rivals. Do you consider Jacksonville as Tennessee’s biggest rival, or do you find that to be the Colts, Texans or another team, and why?

Terry: It’s an interesting question. From an emotional and social media perspective, there’s no question that the Titans’ most-hated rival would be the Jaguars. Jacksonville has its own brand that tends to wear on this fanbase. But from an on-field perspective, it’s probably the Colts. Just chasing them all of those years with Peyton Manning and then Andrew Luck, and they were still a tough out with Jacoby Brissett. The Colts just never seem to be bad no matter what’s thrown at them, and they’ve had Tennessee’s number over the years. I’ll go with Indy overall, but that may be a personal choice that the fanbase doesn’t agree with, though.

5. Are there any under-the-radar players for the Titans that Jaguars fans should watch out for?

Terry: Maybe not totally under the radar, but third-round pick Darrynton Evans (out of Appalachian State) should make his debut on Sunday. He’s going to take the Dion Lewis role behind Derrick Henry, and he’s a guy that the staff seems pretty excited about. The Titans badly needed a guy to work passing downs and bring a little more juice to the table, and Evans should do that.

Update: Both Evans and Brown have been ruled out for Sunday’s game:

6. Score prediction?

Terry: I think we see a pretty competitive game, but I’m encouraged with what I saw from Jadeveon Clowney, Jeffery Simmons and the defense on Monday. It’s a tough front seven with a leaky back half right now, so I expect Gardner Minshew to make a few things happen, but come up short in the end.

Tennessee 24, Jacksonville 16

Thank you to Terry for providing great insights into perhaps Jacksonville’s most-heated rival. You can give him a follow on Twitter and to keep up with what the Titans are doing, follow Music City Miracles as well.