Adrian Peterson still has the running power of a sledgehammer, an iron grip on the football and a pain-inducing handshake.
The Houston resident, a former NFL Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year, is still plying his trade at a high level at age 36 after joining the Tennessee Titans as an injury replacement for NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry.
Peterson is working in tandem with former Texans running back D’Onta Foreman and Jeremy McNichols and quarterback Ryan Tannehill for the 8-2 Titans as they have shifted gears since Henry injured his foot and was placed on injured reserve.
Peterson is seemingly ageless.
“He’s still running that ball hard,” Texans defensive end Jordan Jenkins said. “I’ve played him in the past as well in his ventures throughout the teams he’s been on. He’s running hard, and he’s still talking trash while he’s getting hit. He’s out there, he’s trying to prove that he can still play.
“He’s trying to dominate. He approaches the game the same way he did in his younger days, and I feel like now he’s out there trying to hit guys even harder. He’s not that hitting that hole soft, he’s not looking to go down. He’s trying to fight and trying to put his body into you and just run through you. Hey, he’s a GOAT, Hall of Famer. A lot of these younger guys have never got to play A.P.and never got to tackle him. A lot of the guys’ goal might be to get a good lick on A.P., so that’s just another added bonus to this Sunday.”
Peterson has rushed for 42 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries in two games while Foreman has rushed for 59 yards on 16 carries. Meanwhile, Tannehill has rushed for 169 yards and five touchdowns.
“He’s got some speed,” Jenkins said of Tannehill. “He outran me once my second year when I was with the Jets. He’s got some speed once he gets going , deceptive speed. He can get out there and if he can do it on his feet, he can do it on his feet.”
The Titans rushed for 69 yards, a 2.7 average and two scores against the Los Angeles Rams and 66 yards and one touchdown and a 2.3 average in a win over the New Orleans Saints. They have won both of their two games since Henry got hurt.
The Titans, although missing Henry, still have 1,232 rushing yards, a 4.5 average per carry and 15 touchdown runs.
“They want to have the same approach as if 22 is back there,” defensive end Jon Greenard said. “They’re still going to run the ball. A.P., we know who he is, and Foreman is a guy who has been well respected. People know about him. He was here before hand. They like the physical run style. They want to impose their will. They want to do that and then it opens everything else up. They are going to have the same game plan for sure.”
“They still have a lot of confidence in their backs. They got some good backs. Just because it’s not 22 back there, they are still some well-respected backs who can get the job done. It’s not going to change our approach at all. We still have to get all 11 hats to the ball and get it to where we want it to go. Whoever is back there, they are still going to run hard. They are still expecting the same outcome as 22, so we have to prepare as if 22 was there.”
And Peterson will provide the punch for the Titans. He remains a formidable physical presence with 14,682 career rushing yards and 119 touchdowns. He rushed for 604 yards and seven touchdowns last season for the Detroit Lions and played against the Texans in a Thanksgiving Day loss to them.
“It was the same when we played Detroit last year, we understood that it’s A.P. at the end of the day,” Greenard said. “ When we were first running out there, he’s running full head of steam like he was as a rookie. He’s going to bring it. He’s a competitor, everybody knows that.
“Their team is a competitive team, obviously with where they are in the league and who they ran and what their style of play is. So, they are going to continue to try to impose that on our defense and we got answers for it.”