MIAMI GARDENS, Fla., Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Both punishment and praise surrounded Derrick Henry Thursday after his Tennessee Titans beat the Miami Dolphins 21-10 in week 4 of preseason at the newly-renovated Hard Rock Stadium.
Henry clobbered Dolphins defensive linemen, easily caught the edge on outside handoffs, and plowed over much smaller defensive backs, sending shivers through the stands with each tote.
His seven carries resulted in 62 yards and a score in just one quarter of action. The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner had a pair of 20-plus yard sprints. Henry's 2016 preseason concludes with 34 carries for 216 yards and three touchdowns.
"I feel like we are running full of steam for the regular season," Henry said after the game. "We had a good preseason, good camp, good training camp. Guys got better and competed everyday and made each other better..."
"I'm just ready to play and make plays."
Fantasy football-wise, Henry is a home run late round selection. If you are planning on drafting wide receivers early or spending your first few picks on unconventional positions, take a long look at the huge [6-foot, 3-inch, 247-pound] running back. Even though he isn't the starting running back [yet], Henry will undoubtedly push the veteran DeMarco Murray.
Murray, a former All-Pro and rushing champ in his own right, praised Henry after his effort. But he didn't go as far to say he was threatened by his stellar stats and skills. In fact, he laughed off that question.
"I thought he played well," Murray said. "I thought he played well. He ran hard and finished a lot of runs. I think he's good. I think it's good. He's running hard."
"We just gotta continue to make sure we can control the game and take it one snap at a time and play our game."
Henry joined the Titans via the 2016 NFL Draft in April, when the Titans made him the No. 45 overall pick in the second round.
Murray joined the Titans a month earlier as part of a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. An enormous success story with the Dallas Cowboys has turned into a rushing reclamation for the 28-year-old.
Murray carried for just 702 yards and six scores last season with the Eagles, following a season of 1,845 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns with the Cowboys.
While onlookers wonder how heated the running back battle will be throughout 2016, Murray is still an outlet for the learning rookie.
"Whenever I have advice, he's willing to help me out if I have any questions or anything like that," Henry said. "But we are still competing to get each other better everyday. When we work [we] go out there and work hard all throughout the week."
Marcus Mariota, the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner, is now leading the young Titans offense. The second-year quarterback is also impressed by the rookie.
"He's done a great job," Mariota said of Henry. "Since the moment he stepped in, whether it's being good at pass protection or running the football, he has done it all. We are happy to have them."
The comments from Mariota offer more insight into just how much Henry could see the field. Obviously, in order to score fantasy points for your team, players need to actually see snaps.
With some rookies, they have to learn to be more balanced at the running back position. It seems as though three years at Alabama has prepared Henry well for [offensive coordinator] Terry Robiskie's offense. Although Murray might bulk at the thought of being overwhelmed by the rookie, don't be surprised for it to give both guys motivation. After Murray's down year in Philadelphia, head coach Mike Mularkey could throw in the rookie if Murray struggles again. Mariota's compliment of Henry in pass-protection bodes well for his on-field time, even if Henry isn't the starter all season.
Expect Henry's ceiling as a second running back for your squad. He could already be in the discussion as a flex starter, especially if he starts the season out strong.