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Every defensive player in the NFL knows that Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry is a freight train they don’t want to stand in front of.

Henry, widely considered the best running back league-wide, is one of the, if not the, most bruising runners in the NFL. 

He has led the league in rushing the last two seasons, and two games into this year, he looks like he could do it again. If he pulls it off, Henry would be just the fourth different running back to lead the NFL in rushing three consecutive years, and the first since Emmitt Smith from 1991-93.

But after Sunday’s 33-30 overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks, the Titans seem willing to use Henry for more than just his dominance between the tackles. The 27-year-old tailback had a career-high six receptions for 55 yards against Seattle — the second-highest receiving total of his career — and he was much more of a factor in the blocking game, presumably to mask the absence of left tackle Taylor Lewan, who tweaked an injury in pre-game warmups.

“He blocked [Seahawks safety Jamal] Adams sometimes, he did some nice things,” Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said. “That is just an example of playing without the football, having to protect on some of those blitzes and being willing to do that, and he did.”

Involving Henry more in the passing game is a concept the Titans have thrown around for the last few years while never actually implementing. But why not?

Henry has a 5 percent drop rate over the last three years and he averages nine yards after the catch per reception. He averaged 16.8 yards per reception in college, and he’s hovering around nine yards per reception in five-plus seasons with the Titans as well. 

Speedy 2020 third-round pick Darrynton Evans was supposed to be Tennessee’s primary pass-catching option out of the backfield, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy long enough for Titans coaches to even know what he’s capable of.

Henry has never had more than 19 receptions in any NFL season, and catching the ball wasn’t his forte in college either, as is evidenced by his 17 career receptions in three years at Alabama.

But new Titans offensive coordinator Todd Downing likes to involve his running backs in the pass game. And by not incorporating Henry out of the backfield more, Tennessee is failing to maximize his value.

Sunday’s game showed Henry is more than capable of taking on an expanded role if given a chance. He has proven to be a matchup nightmare if he gets into the secondary with the ball in his hands; just ask Josh Norman and Earl Thomas.

Based on his success against Seattle, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Titans throw a few more screen passes Henry’s way.

“It was good that Derrick caught all the ones that we threw to him and that allowed us to usually get a first down,” Vrabel continued. “We had a lot more on the screen, we have to look at our effort and look what happened there, which we will. His ability to catch the football and get north and south in those checkdown opportunities is good.”

Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_