When the Tennessee Titans selected University of Alabama Heisman Trophy running back Derrick Henry with the 45th overall pick, their third in the second round of April's NFL Draft, the thought was that he, along with DeMarco Murray would provide a bruising one-two punch in the backfield.
While that appears to certainly be the plan, Henry is proving he has more to his game than just bulldozing straight ahead.
Labeled as a player who was not good at catching the football, something that he did early in his Crimson Tide career, but was not asked to do much in his final two seasons in Tuscaloosa, Henry faced detractors who spouted that negative repeatedly during the pre-draft process. It was possibly part of the reason he slid to the second round on draft day.
However, Henry is proving those evaluations wrong early on in Titans OTA's as he has shown remarkable hands, enough so to earn the praise of his head coach Mike Mularkey following Thursday's OTA practice.
"I think he's been impressive, especially with the one-on-one's, he's been a very good route runner," said Mularkey. "Some of the work we did, and some of the routes he ran, again, I always say this (but) a lot of young guys, everything's so fast to them and we speed up the process here, I haven't seen that from him."
"He's very patient, getting the depths he's supposed to get, beating guys that are cover guys, so I've been pretty impressed with him," Mularkey said.
"I'm not sure why they did, or didn't do it, (use Henry as a receiver more at Alabama) they were pretty happy just handing it to him to get the production," continued Mularkey. "He certainly has some good hands"
While some draft "experts" knocked Henry's hands, not everyone felt the same about his ability to catch the football. One scout speaking anonymously felt that Henry was as good as any back in the class at that phase of the game.
"He wasn't asked to do that at Alabama his last two years, but you could tell from his freshman tape that his hands were not an issue," said the scout. "In fact, he was very good at the combine and there were very few who thought he would struggle in that area leaving Indy."
As for Henry, he knew there were no issues, rather it was the choice of Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin not to use him more as a receiver for the Tide.
"I'm just trying to make plays and if that's catching the ball, I've got to catch it and make a play and that's all I'm trying to do," said Henry. "I am two-dimensional and I knew that, so I didn't put a lot into some of those comments. I'm just working hard everyday to try to get better at every part of my game."
As for why he didn't get the chance to catch more last season, Henry shared
"I didn't have a lot of chances my last two years at Alabama, but they put a lot of emphasis on running the ball for me as opposed to catching the football out of the backfield so I did what was asked of me," added Henry. "I'm loving it here and just trying to make plays when my number is called."
Standing 6-3 and 240 pounds, Henry is an imposing figure out of the backfield, something that has not been lost on Mularkey.
"I said it out here today, we ran an angle route with Marcus (Mariota) and he's (Henry) a big body and it's hard to see with pass rushers and all coming at you, but he's a big body to get the ball to and has a good area or space that he can snatch it with that we talked about today."
It's still early in his career, and with his first NFL training camp approaching, Henry knows he is still a work in progress.
"It's been good so far in making the transition to the NFL," said Henry. "I've still got a long way to go."
He and his teammates will return to the practice field next week for a mandatory three-day mini-camp that will take place at St. Thomas Sports Park before getting a month break before the start of training camp on July 29.