Saints defensive end Hendrickson eyes important third pro season ahead
No football team can ever possess too many quality pass rushers. It’s a coveted skill set valued at every level of the sport.
The New Orleans Saints finished third in the NFC in 2018 with 49 sacks, behind only the Bears and Vikings. All-Pro defensive end Cam Jordan tallied 13, tackle Sheldon Rankins had eight and linebacker Demario Davis chipped in five more. Despite the solid production, it is an area of the defense that the Black and Gold hope to upgrade this season.
Defensive end Trey Hendrickson arrived in the Big Easy as a late third round draft pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Saints also had two additional picks in the third round, finding Alvin Kamara and Alex Anzalone before taking the Florida Atlantic product.
On the college level, Hendrickson flashed special talent, particularly in his junior season when he earned first-team All-Conference USA acclaim with 14 1/2 tackles for loss, 13 sacks and five forced fumbles. The following season, he was tabbed C-USA Defensive Player of the Year. He is Florida Atlantic’s all-time sack leader with 29.
There is no quit in his game. He is relentless as a pass rusher, using his hands exceptionally well to ward off blockers.
As a pro, Hendrickson has constantly tried to fine tune his technique throughout the process. His football IQ is impressive. The third year veteran knows the significance of 2019 as an NFL player yet to establish himself as a regular.
“There is a learning curve when you arrive, your rookie year,” Hendrickson assessed. “You don’t see things as fast. Year three is a completely different environment.”
Looking to take full advantage of his experience so far, Hendrickson has spent this off season reshaping his body.
“I have much better weight than I was carrying before. It’s about 265 pounds, but it’s leaner muscle mass (by) getting rid of body fat. I really feel good flying around.”
Hendrickson continued, “Every year, seeing things, learning from Cam (Jordan) and Alex Okafor, was really enlightening on what a premiere defensive end looks like.”
Studying successful ends around the NFL is also part of Hendrickson’s routine. “Chris Long, Ryan Kerrigan, those guys were inspirational to me. They paved the way as a pass rusher with run stopping power. They were fun to watch,” Hendrickson noted.
In his pro debut against the New England Patriots in week two of the 2017 season, he had three tackles. His first NFL sack came the following week against Carolina when he dropped Cam Newton. The Saints prevailed that day, 34-13, to launch a long winning streak that led to the first of two straight NFL South titles.
It’s not only how well the defensive line performs that determines a good pass defense. The back seven have a profound impact on the success of the down linemen and vice versa. The Saints have been a complete defense from front to back to fuel the past two seasons of success.
“There are 11 guys on the field. If one unit is lacking, the whole defense is off,” Hendrickson explained. “At the end of the day, you just have to do your job.”
The Saints have fallen shy of their ultimate goal the previous two seasons, but Hendrickson feels that the past adversity in the postseason will make this group stronger.
“This team has handled adversity really well. Bouncing back is our strong suit. You take everyday with a grain of salt and you move on to the next play. That’s our mentality here,” noted Hendrickson.
Any Saints observer knows that the team has a chance to win every time Drew Brees tkes the field. So do his teammates.
“It’s an honor to have a leader like that. A guy that is all class on and off the field. He will go down as one of the greatest of all time,” said Hendrickson.
The fondness and respect for his quarterback extends to the fans and the city that he represents.
“I love the fans. I love the culture. Experiences that you have here have been interesting,” Hendrickson said with a wide grin.
Keep an eye on No. 91 this season. He knows how important the months ahead will be for himself and his team.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…