Derrick Henry might have turned in his best performance to date as a Tennessee Titan, but Coach Mike Mularkey says “not so fast” to anoint a new starter at running back.
That said, Henry might still be carrying the load this Sunday when the Titans host the Seattle Seahawks, as DeMarco Murray has a strained hamstring that has him day-to-day again, according to the head coach. Murray, who has been off to a slow start this season with 69 yards on 21 carries, played sparingly against Jacksonville Sunday with just nine rushes after apparently re-aggravating the injury.
Much like the preseason when Henry had to carry the load, the former Heisman winner stepped in and ran for a career-high 92 yards on 14 carries, including scoring the Titans’ first touchdown on a 17-yard run.
“That’s a position where if you can have the luxury of having, similar to Jacksonville, of having two guys that can run the ball like that, because that’s a tough position, there’s a lot of pounding that goes on their bodies, if you can have good depth at that position,” Mularkey said. “We’re fortunate that we have it. Yeah, that’s part of the reason we drafted Derrick.”
Mularkey reiterated Monday what he has said ever since the Titans traded for Murray and drafted Henry last year. – that Murray, the AFC’s leading rusher last year, is the starter, and Henry is the backup.
“I still see it that way. Yesterday I thought Derrick (Henry) came in, really both of them played in the first half. It was a grind trying to run the ball with both of them in there,” Mularkey said. “When Derrick (Henry) took over for DeMarco (Murray) in the second half, we stayed patient with the run game and it started to hit some holes.”
Murray, along with wide receiver Corey Davis, both tweaked their previously injured hamstrings Sunday, leaving their status up in the air as the Titans prepare for Seattle. Mularkey wouldn’t necessarily second-guess the decision to bring both players back for the start of the regular season after the missed virtually all of camp and preseason. But he did say that hamstring injuries are tough to evaluate.
“It’s easy to say that now,” Mularkey said. “A hamstring is one of those injuries that are tough to deal with, they’ve always been that way. And each guys is different, that’s why I don’t do weeks or days on them. They’re very touchy injuries, and you’ve got to be careful with them.”
As for Murray’s injury, he went to team trainers to report the tightness in the hamstring, and it was decided to pull him from the game – a decision no doubt made easier by Henry’s success on the day.
Mularkey said that Murray agreed with the decision to pull him out of the game.
“He just felt it, just felt it on the sideline. He agreed too, he’s a competitor, guy wants to be on the field. When he says he agrees with us and thought it was a good decision to hold him out,” Mularkey said.
As for Davis, the Titans’ first-round pick who played well in the opener, but caught just one pass in limited work Sunday, he returned to the game late, but still will be day-to-day and have to be evaluated throughout the week to see if he can go versus the Seahawks.
Davis had six catches for 69 yards, but his absence from the lineup for a good part of Sunday’s game may have opened up some additional reps for fellow rookie Taywan Taylor, who responded with a 42-yard catch to set up a touchdown and a 17-yard run in the first half off an end around type play.
Safety Johnathan Cyprien, who sustained a left hamstring injury against Oakland in the opener, will be out again this week. He reps will be divided again among Da’Norris Searcy and Curtis Riley, both of whom had interceptions Sunday in Jacksonville.
Cornerback Tye Smith should be back from his broken hand.