Bring the big boy pads: Jaguars prepare for Yulee Bulldozer Derrick Henry and Titans

The Yulee Bulldozer.

That’s the nickname bestowed upon Derrick Henry, a Yulee native and former Super 11 selection. While Henry’s historic high school football career in Northeast Florida is storied, he’s widely known for his elite play in college and the NFL.

Henry won the 2015 Heisman trophy with Alabama and was selected in the second round of the ensuing NFL draft in 2016.

Yulee High School product Derrick Henry rushed for three touchdowns against the Jaguars in October 2021.
Yulee High School product Derrick Henry rushed for three touchdowns against the Jaguars in October 2021.

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Standing at roughly 6-foot-3, 250-pounds, Henry became famous for how easily he could shed defenders while picking up chunks of yards.

Through seven seasons with the Titans, Henry has more than 9,000 total yards while scoring 78 touchdowns. He won Offensive Player of the Year in 2020 and played in one Pro Bowl during his career.

In 11 games against Jacksonville, Henry has rushed for 1,143 yards and 15 touchdowns. One of his most famous plays came against the Jaguars where he scored a 99-yard touchdown run, leaving a trail of Jacksonville players in his wake.

When asked about the key to stopping Henry on Thursday, defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell emphasized getting several players near him whenever he has the ball.

“Getting multiple guys around him. We have to be good at staying in our gaps, and once you’re in your gap, you secure your gap, and you go help whoever has a free gap make the tackle. We need a lot of effort getting to the ball, and that’s the way you try to slow him down,” Caldwell said.

A matchup against the Titans is the type of game where opposing defenses need to match the physicality of Tennessee. Even before dealing with Henry, the Titans offensive line is the first major obstacle. They’re a fierce group that enjoys plowing open lanes and punish defensive linemen in the trenches.

“You’ve just got to focus on setting edges, you know, not let [Henry] get a head of steam,” defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot said on Wednesday. “I’ve played him for years, so I know what it takes to stop them and honestly, I like Tennessee week. I love Tennessee week. It’s one of them games you know what they’re going to give you and you know you have to stop it. If you stop it, it’s a whole other game.”

Smoot is one of the longest-tenured Jacksonville players. His insight this week will be key for some of the younger players and fresh faces on the Jaguars’ defense.

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) stiff arms Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Sidney Jones (35) in the teams' December 2020 game.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) stiff arms Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Sidney Jones (35) in the teams' December 2020 game.

And if the Jaguars hope to be successful, they’re going to need all 11 players to be keyed in on stopping Henry.

“You just can’t let him get to the second level more than anything,” Smoot said of Henry. “We know he’s a big guy. When he gets to the second level, he’s getting to our safeties and our corners. That’s just hard to tackle in general. It’s like me running the ball trying to run at a corner or safety. We have to make sure that we hit him early, hit him fast and make sure he doesn’t get to the second level before we touch him for sure.”

One of those safeties, Rayshawn Jenkins, is looking forward to the game against Tennessee. The matchup will merge well with his style of play as he gets to play closer to the line of scrimmage and make stops before the ball carrier can truly get going.

He’s registered 47 solo tackles and forced two fumbles this season and been a bright spot for the Jaguars in his second year with the team.

“We’ve got to bring our big boy pads; it’s going to be a physical game. That’s how Tennessee is built. That’s how we are built, so they fall right into our ballpark,” Jenkins said on Thursday. “It’s an exciting game for me because I get to make some tackles, get dropped down in coverage a bit. Matchup on some tight ends, it’ll be fun as far as what we’re doing.”

The Jaguars will travel to Tennessee to face the Titans on Sunday in a battle between AFC South foes.

Juston Lewis is a sports reporter for the Florida Times-Union. You can follow him on Twitter at @JustonLewis_.

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This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Jacksonville Jaguars ready to face Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans