AJ Brown’s gone, but don’t overlook this Derrick Henry-led bunch

Head coach: Mike Vrabel. I was bemused last year at this time because Vrabel barely made the top 20 in Fantasy Pros’ ranking of the best NFL head coaches. And he didn’t make Pro Football Focus’ more-concentrated list at all. Maybe offended is a better word for my feeling at that time. (Though, I don’t know why I would take that personally. But I digress.) The good news is he moved up both rankings this year after leading the Titans to the top seed in the AFC. doing this after Losing Derrick Henry. And in PFF’s rankings, he’s behind Kliff Kingsbury(!) but ahead of Sean McVay. And now I’m left wondering why I’m even paying attention to these lists.

I’ll just remain with the same point that I made last year in this space, where I still believe Vrabel is one of the best coaches in the NFL. He has that quality where, at times, he feels like he would be perfectly cast as the coach on Riverdale or something. But he’s done a great job of keeping this team together — especially last year, through injuries to a lot of crucial players.

Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill. I still believe in Tanny, despite the fact that he’s coming off his roughest year in Tennessee. In fact, he threw more interceptions in 2021 (14) than in 2020 and 2019 combined (13). But he still led the Titans to a 12-5 record, finishing the regular season on a nice three-game winning streak. He completed close to 75 percent of his passes over that final stretch with seven passing touchdowns and zero picks, producing a passer rating of 125.3. He was pretty good.

Well, until the playoff game. I know we talk a lot about how ferociously the Titans’ defensive front got after Joe Burrow in that playoff loss. But the Bengals’ defense was pretty good against Tannehill, picking him off three times. There is going to be some heat on Tanny this year, especially with a rookie quarterback in the mix — more on him in a bit. Ultimately, I would say that Tannehill is a winner.

Projected 2022 MVP: Derrick Henry, running back. Dude missed nine games in 2021 and still finished ninth in rushing with 937 yards. That had never happened before in NFL history — a guy missing that many games and still posting a top-10 rushing total. I mean, King Henry is an absolute machine. And let’s talk about what he means to Tannehill, who threw 11 of his 14 interceptions when Henry was off the field. I know running backs — or bell-cow running backs, at least — are an increasingly rare breed in the NFL, but Henry is still a force of nature in this role.

My favorite Derrick Henry stat: He has averaged 100-plus rushing yards per game in each of the last three seasons. The only person to log four straight? Jim Brown.

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