Derrick Henry shoulders blame for Titans' run-game woes amid back-to-back losses

TD's Takeaways after the Titans 35-10 loss to the Eagles. -A.J. Brown's big day (1:55)

TD's Takeaways after the Titans 35-10 loss to the Eagles. -A.J. Brown's big day vs. his former team. -Ryan Tannehill was sacked six times. -Tennessee's pass rush has cooled off. Video by Turron Davenport (1:55)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Derrick Henry was clearly frustrated when he stepped to the podium after rushing for only 30 yards in the Tennessee Titans' 35-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

It was just three weeks ago that Henry reclaimed the NFL's leading rusher slot after gaining 87 yards against the Green Bay Packers.

Since then, Henry has only picked up 68 yards over the last two games and now finds himself behind Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs and Cleveland Browns back Nick Chubb. Henry has rushed for 1,078 yards and 10 touchdowns on 258 carries through 12 games.

The 6-foot-3, 247-pound running back is only averaging 2.77 yards per carry over the last three games after averaging 4.57 yards in the first nine. Titans coach Mike Vrabel quickly shot down any questions when asked if Henry is wearing down.

If that isn't the case, what has gone wrong?

Henry is always one to deflect the credit to the offensive line along with the receivers and tight ends when the ground game is humming along. But he goes out of his way to shoulder the blame when things aren't working.

"I am my worst critic," Henry said. "I have to be a better leader. I pride myself on being a playmaker for this team, and I feel like I haven’t really done that these last two weeks."

There are more times when Henry is getting tackled by one defender this season. What's a bit puzzling about that is how at times that solo tackler is a defensive back.

Henry's patented stiff arm that used to keep would-be tacklers from bringing him down has been less frequent, as well.

But Henry has shown flashes this season. He had a five-game streak in which he rushed for 100 or more yards, which includes a 219-yard outburst against the Houston Texans.

The Titans (7-5) won four of those games, but Tennessee has lost its last two games, coinciding with Henry's rut.

Offensive coordinator Todd Downing pointed to how important it is to get Henry to his fourth or fifth step if the Titans are going to run the ball effectively. That is where the Titans are failing as a group.

The Titans strive to get Henry's momentum going toward the line of scrimmage on his rushing attempts. That's why they have him consistently line up eight yards behind the ball when quarterback Ryan Tannehill is under center.

During practice, Tennessee has the running backs stand in a box that is outlined and placed eight yards behind a strip that represents the line of scrimmage so they're used to getting the necessary depth.

Henry is getting hit at or behind the line of scrimmage too often. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Henry averaged 1 yard before first contact on each of his 11 carries against the Eagles.

While that's still bad, it's a slight improvement from the 0.8 yards before first contact average that Henry had against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 12. The week before that, Henry only averaged 0.9 yards before contact against the Packers. Those two numbers are the second- and third-lowest averages in Henry's career.

Henry is now averaging a career-low 1.67 yards per rush before contact this season. That's 49th out of 50 qualified rushers in average yards before contact this season [ahead of only Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers].

"We have to find ways to create space for Derrick," Vrabel said. "The X plays are coming with him at the second level. But there's gotta be some space. Other times he has to help us find that space."

The Bengals used a bear front to slow Henry down, meaning they had a defensive lineman line up directly over top of the guard-center-guard trio. The front covered up the interior offensive linemen, which allowed the linebackers to get a clear path to Henry in the backfield.

As a result, Henry was hit in the backfield more often.

Sunday's game saw the Eagles use a different strategy to clog up the rushing lanes and eliminate space for Henry to run. Philadelphia didn't get to Henry as quickly as the Bengals did when he carried the ball, but held him to less yards.

Regardless of the approach by the opponent, everything boils down to beating the man in front of them. That's where the Titans' offensive line has to be more consistent.

"We just gotta win the line of scrimmage," left guard Aaron Brewer said. "Cover up and be more aggressive. That's pretty much it."