Running back Derrick Henry makes good first impression on Ravens

OWINGS MILLS — Ravens inside linebacker Roquan Smith joked that he was excited to be watching newly signed running back Derrick Henry from the sideline instead of playing against him.

The Ravens signed the four-time Pro Bowler and the 2020 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year this offseason to add another explosive element to the offense.

Henry’s teammates were impressed by what they had seen thus far.

“I think it’s going to make us stick to what we do,” Smith said about the addition of Henry. “Having a guy like that, any time you need a play with him and Lamar [Jackson] back there, it’s going to be crucial. I’m excited. It’s going to open up a lot for everyone. Going up against the guy, I know what kind of a threat he poses to other defenses. It’s going to be scary. I’m excited to see.”

Henry is a versatile player eager to embrace the Ravens’ playbook of second-year offensive coordinator Todd Monken. Because of his size — 6 feet 3,  247 pounds –Henry has been most effective in getting momentum out of the backfield, taking the ball from a quarterback who is under center and running at defenders at full speed.

At this week’s strength and conditioning program, Henry showed off that power and speed in the drills. Even Ravens strength and conditioning coordinator Scott Elliott was “awed” by Henry’s athleticism.

“I go back to the word intent; he attacks everything with such a high level of intent – intent with tenacity,” Elliott said. “That’s why he’s Derrick Henry. That’s why what we’re going to help him do is keep that same trajectory. He’s had one heck of a career, [and] our goal is that it gets even better from here. [It’s] not [about] age, not years of service – none of that. He keeps getting better and better, and it’s his work ethic.

“I mean, that was evident the last 72 hours – it’s immediate. The guy has a high level of focus, he prioritizes his body, he works extremely hard, and that’s what going to continue.” 

Ravens opponents can’t afford to focus solely on stopping Henry because it would open lanes for quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is one of the best running quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. It’s not a stretch that Henry and Jackson could be among the top 10 or 15 rushers in the league next season.

Henry is a four-time Pro Bowler and the 2020 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year. While there are questions about Henry’s durability at age 30, he spends a lot of time in the offseason getting his body in shape and sticks to a strict diet.

For now, he is just trying to fit in with his new teammates.

“I’m the new guy, so I want to make sure that I show up and I show my team and show this organization [that] I’m here, I’m committed,” Henry said. “I want to come work and want to put the work in and be around my teammates and develop that relationship with them and really just put the work in and work as hard as I can when I’m in the building.” 

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