JACKSONVILLE – The technique is real and it's spectacular.
It's also devastatingly effective, so defensive coordinator Todd Wash said the Jaguars pay special attention to it when preparing for this week's opponent, Tennessee Titans All-Pro running back Derrick Henry.
"He's got a hell of a stiff arm," Wash said Thursday as the Jaguars (1-11) prepared to play the Titans (8-4) at TIAA Bank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.
"We've seen it many, many times."
Indeed, they have.
Henry, the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner who played at Yulee High School near Jacksonville, has had many big games against the Jaguars in recent seasons. He has had many big moments, too – and a lot of those big moments have come from Henry using his stiff-arm as well as his defensive-lineman size, bruising running style and uncommon tackle-breaking ability.
"We know this guy," safety Jarrod Wilson said. "We know this guy's going to get the football a lot and he's coming down hill. It's man on man, trying to do our job and match up on Sunday."
Tackling Henry is difficult enough that players often consider it an issue of desire.
"It's definitely a want-to, especially later on in the season when everybody's body starts hurting," Smoot said. "His numbers go crazy halfway through the season. It's a mindset. We have to put our body on him, really hit him, wrap him up and get a many people to him as possible."
The late-season thing with Henry is real. Five of his six 100-yard games in 2019 came in November and December, and he was the AFC Player of the Month in December 2018.
That trend holds true against the Jaguars. In Titans-Jaguars games played in September since 2018, Henry has averaged just under 62 yards per game with two rushing touchdowns. In two series games in November and December of those seasons, he has rushed for 397 yards and six touchdowns.
"We've got to do a better job of tackling late in the year," Wash said. "That's what it was when you look at the last couple of years. Early on in the year, because you're coming out of training camp, you've really emphasized tackling. Later in the year, you're not practicing in pads as much. You're not hitting and tackling. That's been some of it. We're really emphasizing, 'We've got to be able to tackle this guy,' and here it is late in the year again."
One emphasis this week – and all pre-Henry weeks – are drills to prepare for Henry's stiff-arm. When Henry broke five tackle in route to a 99-yard touchdown run against the Jaguars in 2018, he stiff-armed his way past three Jaguars defenders.
"His stiff arm is something that we work on each week when we play him," Wash said. "We emphasize chopping and trying to get your eyes to his thighs. Everybody works on it, but this week we specifically set time aside to make sure we're working on how to defeat a stiff arm."
Wilson joked, "I'm not trying to be on that tape. You try to cut his legs down, get his legs down the best way I can. … I'm definitely not trying to be on a stiff-arm tape."
Smoot joked that the drills were mainly defensive line coach Jason Rebrovich sticking defenders in the helmet with a "big old yellow (padded) arm." Smoot added that negating the stiff arm is primarily "knocking it down and running through it."
"You have to run through contact anyway whenever you're tackling Derrick Henry," Smoot said. "His stiff-arm is vicious. We have to stop that."
Smoot on persevering and improving in recent weeks despite an 11-game losing streak: "Because of all the ups and downs, we've been able to pick each other up and we've been able to get to know each other more. We've been a lot closer because of all the bad things that have happened. Just knowing that we've had a lot of injuries and a lot of uncertainty, we've been able to come closer personally. We're trying to work on our relationships. That's obviously been translating onto the field in these past weeks. We're just trying to keep it going."
Running back James Robinson practiced limited for a second consecutive day with a knee injury Thursday; Head Coach Doug Marrone said Wednesday he expects Robinson – a rookie who is third in the NFL in rushing through 12 games – to play Sunday. Seven other players worked limited Thursday: linebacker Dakota Allen (hamstring) and Kamalei Correa (hamstring), running back Nathan Cottrell (knee), tight end Tyler Eifert (shoulder), Jones (Achilles), CB Greg Mabin (hamstring) and wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (thumb). Center Brandon Linder missed practice for a second consecutive day with an ankle sustained against Minnesota Sunday.