Former Chargers All-Pro Shawne Merriman has some high praise for former Alabama running back Derrick Henry. “That’s a damn linebacker…that is what I’m talking about,” exclaimed the Minnesota Vikings journeyman of his new teammate, who ran for 2,219 yards and 27 TDs this past season according to ESPN stats.
Former linebacker Shawne Merriman has always been one of the most physical athletes in the NFL, and he’s impressed with what we’ve seen from running back Derrick Henry so far this season. “That’s a damn line backer,” said Merriman on ESPN Radio 97.5 FM San Diego during an interview with Damon Bruce when asked about Henry’s performance against Cleveland
Former Chargers All-Pro Shawne Merriman is enamored with Derrick Henry’s monstrous numbers and skills: ‘That’s a damn linebacker.’
Highlights of the article:
- Merriman, Shawne, a former All-Pro linebacker, is a huge admirer of Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry.
- According to Merriman, the NFL has never seen a running back as big as Henry, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 247 pounds.
- The Pro Football Hall of Fame is on the verge of inducting the 2020 Offensive Player of the Year.
Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans has made it a habit to rip through opposing defenses and knock down would-be tacklers, which is great news for Shawne Merriman.
Long before Henry, the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner, joined the NFL, the All-Pro linebacker retired. Merriman is able to completely appreciate all the Titans star brings to the table since he has never been on the receiving end of the running back’s bruising abilities.
Derrick Henry, according to Shawne Merriman, is the best running back he’s ever seen.
Shawne Merriman (L), a former All-Pro linebacker, is a major admirer of Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry. | Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images for Cedars Sinai Sports Spectacular
Merriman, at 6-foot-4 and 264 pounds, was a force to be reckoned with in the trenches and in wide space. But, despite facing some of the best running backs in the game, including LaDainian Tomlinson in practice and a young Adrian Peterson, the Maryland product has never seen anything like Henry.
Merriman discussed what separates Henry, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, from the rest of his contemporaries in an interview with Gambling.com.
“I believe Eddie George is the closest thing in the NFL that comes close to it. Eddie, on the other hand, weighed about 225 pounds, but Henry weighs 247. That’s a freaking linebacker, close to a defensive end, accelerating to 21 miles per hour while rushing the football down the field. That’s something you’d see in a video game.”
EA Sports, when it comes to video games, definitely agrees with Merriman. Henry’s overall rating in Madden NFL 22 just increased to 98, putting him ahead of Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers, who still has a 97 overall, for the greatest score among running backs.
Given Henry’s recent performance, it’s difficult to disagree with Merriman.
It’s all too easy to ignore someone who claims that an athlete is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Please believe us when we tell that Henry, who is just in his sixth season, more than lives up to the hype.
From September 19 to October 18, Henry rushed for over 100 yards in every game. In Week 2, he had 182 yards and three touchdowns in an overtime triumph against Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks. In that span, he ran for 10 touchdowns, giving him four seasons in a row with double-digit touchdowns.
With 783 running yards after six games, Henry is well on his way to breaking 1,000 yards for the fourth consecutive season. In theory, he still has nothing on Emmitt Smith, who had 11 seasons like this between 1991 and 2001.
This is when things start to become very intriguing. Henry would complete the 2021 season with an NFL-record 2,219 running yards and 28 touchdowns if he keeps on his present pace. Since the start of the 2018 season, he’s racked up 6,845 yards and 73 touchdowns.
From 1992 through 1995, Smith had his finest four-year run, rushing for 6,456 yards and 73 touchdowns in the regular season. Despite the fact that Henry will play in his 17th game this season, he only missed one game throughout the 2018 and 2020 seasons.
What about speed? Statistics are one thing, but what about speed? Smith, who stood 5-foot-9 and weighed 221 pounds for the most of his career, clocked a 4.52 40-yard sprint during his pro day in 1990. At 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds, Henry ran a 4.54.
Merriman has a point, and we tend to agree with him. Henry is unlike anybody else in the NFL.
Henry would be on pace for 2,080 running yards this season if we were still in the 16-game era. Take into account the fact that no running back has ever surpassed the 2,000-yard mark twice. Unless he suffers a major injury in the coming weeks, the 17-game season will only help him improve his stats.
Henry, who has 6,643 running yards as of Oct. 22, 2021, is on pace to reach 10,000 rushing yards late in the 2022 or early in the 2023 season. As of this writing, 16 of the 31 running backs with more than 10,000 rushing yards have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, with Adrian Peterson (14,820) and Frank Gore (16,000) on track to join them when they become eligible.
As of this writing, Henry has 65 running touchdowns. If he finishes the season with 25 touchdowns, he will have scored 80 touchdowns in his career. Thirteen of the twenty running backs with 80 rushing touchdowns have earned a bronze bust, and Gore and Peterson should have no problem getting in.
Let’s hope Henry avoids serious damage for the benefit of all of us. It’ll be amazing to see where he places on the all-time leaderboards when he ultimately retires, given what he’s accomplishing now.
RELATED: On Derrick Henry’s record-breaking quest, Rich Eisen gave him a catchy new nickname that spells trouble for the opposition.
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