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Giants’ DC Wink Martindale: Titans’ RB Derrick Henry a ‘modern-day Jim Brown’

Giants bracing for dealing with the King in Sunday’s season opener

Arizona Cardinals v Tennessee Titans
Derrick Henry
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

New York Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale on Wednesday called Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry a “modern-day Jim Brown.”

Henry has been the game’s busiest (1,115 rushing attempts) and most productive back (5,563 yards) since 2018. He is a 6-foot-3, 247-pound tank who has also led the NFL in yards per carry (5.01) and yards rushing per game (101.1) during that span.

“He’s a physical guy that can be one cut and go. He can be whatever he wants to be at certain times. He’s a very talented back. He’s like our modern-day Jim Brown. He’s just that much different when he has the ball. He’s a challenge every time he touches it.”

Henry is also the highest-paid back in football after a recent contract re-structure.

“I still don’t think they gave him enough,” Martindale said.

As a coach in Baltimore, Martindale had first-hand experience going up against Henry.

“Thanks for reminding me,” Martindale said sarcastically when asked Wednesday about those matchups against Henry.

Henry ran for 133 yards on 28 carries in a Tennessee win over Baltimore during the 2020 regular season. During a 2020 playoff game Tennessee won, 28-12, Henry had 195 yards rushing on 30 carries against Martindale’s defense.

Off of Henry’s ability to run, Martindale said the Titans are dangerous in the play-action passing game with quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

“What they do is they play to his [Tannehill’s] strengths. He’s a very good, maybe one of the best play-action [passers] in football today,” Martindale said. “They know who they are going into it.”

Martindale won’t have former starting inside linebacker Blake Martinez, who was released recently. He also seems unlikely to have starting edge defenders Kayvon Thibodeaux (sprained MCL) and Azeez Ojulari, who were extremely limited in practice on Wednesday for a second straight day.

“We’ll have a plan,” Martindale said. “I know Custer had one, too.”

In three of Martindale’s four seasons as defensive coordinator in Baltimore, the Ravens finished third or higher in the NFL in points allowed. He was asked on Wednesday if his goal with the Giants is to replicate that success in New York.

“Every year is different. Every team is different. Even back when we were in Baltimore. For example, we were able to get Tony Jefferson here, who was part of the number one defense, and that helps. It’s a culture,” Martindale said.

“One thing I’ll guarantee. I don’t know how good we’ll be, but we are going to run toe football and we are going to tackle people.”

How successful they are in tackling King Henry on Sunday will go a long way in determining how the Martindale era of Giants’ defense begins.