Derrick Henry is a dark horse NFL MVP candidate for the Titans

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /

Derrick Henry has been a driving force for the Tennessee Titans’ 5-0 start.

The Tennessee Titans season looked like it was on the brink of collapse thanks to a series of positive tests for COVID-19 and a possible flouting of the rules by the team. There was talk of forfeiting games and massive punishment for the entire franchise.

But instead, they have won two games in the span of five days and are sitting on top of the AFC as one of two undefeated teams left in the conference and one of three remaining unbeaten teams throughout the league.

The Titans manhandled the Buffalo Bills in their rescheduled matchup in Week 5, which felt more like a prequel to Week 6, and then narrowly edged out the Houston Texans in a wild overtime thriller. Before that, they defeated three teams that likely won’t make the playoffs. In the NFL, though, every win counts the same, no matter the level of opponent.

Over these five games, the defense has been suspect at times and dominant at others, but the one constant has been the play of running back Derrick Henry. The 2019 NFL rushing champ looks to be on his way to repeating the feat this season and has placed the Titans firmly on his back for the first five games of their season.

Derrick Henry is putting up MVP-caliber numbers for the Tennessee Titans.

Henry is currently leading the NFL in carries with 123 despite playing one game less than all but one other player in the top five in that category. He is also, of course, leading the league in rushing with 588 yards and is second in touchdowns with six, one behind Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook.

The rest of the Titans offense, especially quarterback Ryan Tannehill, has been great as well but Henry is the engine that drives the rest of the team forward.

Since he became the full-time starter in 2018, the Titans are 11-2 in games that Henry has 20 or more carries and that trend has continued this season as he has at least 19 carries in every game so far. He topped out with a hefty 31 attempts in Week 1 as the Titans offense was struggling to find its feet in Denver and lead them to victory.

Over the span of his career, the Titans are 13-0 when Henry has at least 100 yards rushing, so he is not just the best player on the team, but also their best chance at victory from week to week.

The last time a running back won the NFL MVP award was in 2012 when Adrian Peterson retook his rushing throne with a monster season. Before that, it was 2006 when San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson captured the award and he did so just after Seattle’s Shaun Alexander won in 2005.

Tomlinson rushed for 1,815 yards and 28 touchdowns with an additional 500 yards receiving and Alexander rushed for 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns so the bar is set incredibly high for a back to win the award.

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Henry is currently on pace for 1,880 yards and about 19 touchdowns. So if he continues at that rate, then he will certainly have a case for the award. More importantly, if the Titans keep winning games and Henry remains the driving force, then he will have an even better chance at winning it. Winning it would be an incredible achievement for a back in such a quarterback-driven league but if anyone can do it, why not Derrick Henry?