Bengals Trey Hendrickson will be sack leader in 2021
By: Drew Feinberg
The Cincinnati Bengals have been making some serious moves this offseason, showing signs that they plan to compete in the league as soon as possible. When the NFL offseason opened up on March 11, Cincinnati was eager to bolster its feeble defensive line, as the Bengals and former New Orleans Saints defensive end Trey Henrickson inked a four-year, $60 million contract.
Hendrickson shined in his final season under contract in New Orleans, ranking 2nd in the league with 13.5 sacks, which accounted for more than double his career sack total in his first three seasons. While not widely regarded as an established player, the Bengals are taking an expensive risk that Hendrickson will maintain last season’s form, and solidify himself as a premiere pass-rusher in the NFL. I, for one, will go one step further with Hendrickson’s outlook for the 2021 season. I am planting my flag and saying that Hendrickson will finish the 2021 season as the NFL’s sack leader; and here’s why:
While adding Hendrickson to an already decrepit defensive line was an improvement, the Bengals have yet to make another major splash to help improve the line. Signing defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi to a one-year deal was a decent start, but for a line that ranked dead last in sacks (17 sacks), more needs to be done.
Regardless of who is added or subtracted from the line, it will be Hendrickson’s unit to lead into the 2021 season. Hendrickson is an old-school, gritty lineman; perfect for the blue-collar fanbase Cincinnati has. He is a classic 4-3 defensive end who fights until the whistle is blown, and seems to never give up on any play.
Due to the sheer lack of talent surrounding Hendrickson, I don’t see anybody totalling more sacks than Hendrickson will in 2021. While 13.5 sacks will be quite a feat to duplicate, I simply don’t see a reason as to why he can’t surpass that total this season. In New Orleans, Hendrickson starred while being surrounded by established pass rushers such as Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport. Now in Cincinnati, Hendrickson will have the line all to himself, which I think will lead to a career year for the young man.
While Hendrickson may not be a household name, his 2020 stats put him in the same conversations as the “thought-to-be” superstar pass rushers, such as Browns, Myles Garrett; Steelers, T.J. Watt; and Rams, Aaron Donald. Not to mention, Hendrickson did this while playing some of the league’s premiere offensive lines during the 2020 season.
Switching gears to the 2021 season, the competition is still just as tough, but Hendrickson is trending in the right direction. He finished the 2020 season with the third-highest pressure rate (16.3%) in the NFL and was first in the league in third-down pressure rate (25.5%) according to NFL Next Gen Stats. If those numbers continue to rise, we will surely see it impact his statline positively.
While the spotlight will be shining a bit brighter on Hendrickson during the 2021 season, Hendrickson should be able to come in and make an instant impact in the Bengals ‘new-look’ defense. Cincinnati is banking on Hendrickson to continue his rise in form, and I believe that given the reins, Hendrickson can be a difference maker in this league, and wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks for years to come.