It's finally Derrick Henry's time, but more backfield help coming for Titans

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Derrick Henry has waited two years for this moment. The Tennessee Titans are finally handing him the keys to their backfield.

DeMarco Murray's release paves the way for Henry to become the Titans' starting running back in 2018 and beyond. The former Heisman Trophy winner has a rare combination of speed and power that has made him a terror to defend in doses over his first two seasons. He'll finally have the opportunity to do it in full games.

Titans general manager Jon Robinson briefly hesitated when I asked him last week at the NFL combine if Henry was ready to be a three-down feature back. There are still some questions regarding Henry's quickness, pass blocking and receiving ability, but Robinson seems to have confidence in Henry being the lead back going forward.

"He did a nice job, he had some really strong runs for us," Robinson said. "We’re glad Derrick is on the football team. We look forward to handing it to him, throwing it to him and giving it to him so he can make yards.

"He’s a bigger back, as we all know. He has really, really good speed in the open field. He’s a guy who can get downhill."

Henry has spent much of the offseason working out in Dallas with a trainer in hopes of coming back a better player. One former Titans coach believes that Henry just needed a starting opportunity and expects him to become an established NFL back.

Eddie George, the franchise's all-time leading rusher, was even more confident in Henry's ceiling when I asked him about it during the Titans' playoff run.

"He has the ability to lead the league in rushing. I think he has the ability to be the league MVP," George said. "The sky is the limit. We’re scratching the surface in what he can do. The more opportunities he gets, the better he gets.

"I have no question that Derrick can be a 1,500-1,800-yard type of running back when he gets the opportunities."

But it won't just be Henry's show in 2018.

Murray played a significant role for the Titans, particularly in 2016 when he led the AFC in rushing. The modern NFL rarely has room for 30-carry-a-game feature backs. The Titans will bring in at least one running back via free agency or the draft to add depth.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Titans examine the free-agent market, particularly if they can find a good fit for their zone-blocking scheme, but they also have to weigh the risk of how adding a back like Dion Lewis or Jerick McKinnon would affect Henry. A true backup like Charles Sims or Alfred Blue would make more sense.

The most probable scenario seems to be spending a midround pick in April's draft -- one considered deep at running back -- to find a backup for Henry, perhaps a player with solid pass-catching skills.

The Titans had a formal interview with Miami's Mark Walton at the combine and informal meetings with Georgia's Sony Michel and Auburn's Kerryon Johnson. Michel will likely be a first- or second-round pick, while Johnson and Walton could be Day 2 or early Day 3 selections. Tennessee's John Kelly, a local favorite, and NC State's Nyheim Hines also would make a ton of sense for the Titans.