Bengals Trey Hendrickson may win DPOY in 2021
By: Will Baptist
Trey Hendrickson will shoulder a lot of responsibilities after signing a 4 year $60 million contract with the Cincinnati Bengals this offseason. He will be the most talented pass rusher on the roster, and the Bengals need his presence to be felt immediately. After tying Aaron Donald for second in the NFL in sacks with 13.5 last season, he has become a force for opposing tackles to deal with.
Hendrickson has shown drastic improvement over the past two seasons and has blossomed into a dominant edge rusher. He has slowly started to take the field more often on early downs as he continues to develop as a run stopper. He played 53% of the Saints defensive snaps last year and if that number continues to grow, he can put up gaudy sack numbers. If he can successfully build on his breakout 2020 season, Hendrickson has a legitimate chance to compete for the Defensive Player of the Year award.
He will have his fair share of competition with Aaron Donald, T.J. Watt, Jalen Ramsey and so on. Aaron Donald won the award last year while also racking up 13.5 sacks, and has clearly been the best defensive player in the NFL over the last few seasons. Donald played 85% of the Rams snaps, while Watt played 83% of the Steelers snaps last season and finished with 15 sacks.
Watt, Donald and Hendrickson all racked up similar sack numbers, but Hendrickson played about 300 fewer snaps than both of them. That amount of production in only 53% of the snaps is extraordinary and will push him to develop the rest of his game in order to stay on the field more. If he can play up to at least 70% of the Bengals defensive snaps this year, he could potentially hit 20 sacks on the season.
There have only been 12 instances where a player has racked up 20 or more sacks in a season since sacks have become an official stat. With the additional game this season, it could become slightly more common, but it still will be extremely rare. Hendrickson would be in an elite company if he could get to 20 sacks but it is not out of the realm of possibility.
He has to play close to 800 snaps and remain healthy, but he also needs the players around him to be dominant at their position. If he is constantly getting double-teamed due to his teammates struggling, then it will be tough for him to win the award.
Talent surrounding him
Hendrickson had a terrific defense around him with the Saints, and Cam Jordan on the opposite side of the line to wreak havoc. Jordan drew most of the attention throughout the year and finished with 7.5 sacks, but Hendrickson has now made a name for himself. For Hendrickson to win the Defensive Player of the Year award, he needs a lot of talent around him such as he did last year.
One dominant defensive lineman can only do so much, but luckily for Hendrickson, the Bengals defense is much improved heading into the season. The line should take a massive leap forward with the return of D.J. Reader clogging up the middle and stopping the run. Sam Hubbard will be the other starting edge rusher and he just inked a new contract and is poised for a stellar season.
Hubbard had a somewhat disappointing 2020 season with only two sacks, but he excelled at stopping the run. He can work his way back to being a great pass rusher like he was in 2019 when he racked up 8.5 sacks in his second season in the NFL.
The secondary will be much better with the additions of Mike Hilton and Chidobe Awuzie, along with Trae Waynes returning from injury. Hendrickson can tally up coverage sacks as he did with the Saints if the secondary can play up to their potential in Cincinnati.
The Saints were an excellent team last year and finished the regular season at 12-4. Opposing teams were often losing and forced to throw the ball considering how good the Saints offense was. This helped Hendrickson with the ability to constantly rush the passer due to the Saints leading in most of their games.
The Bengals will need similar offensive production to get early leads and give Hendrickson the opportunity to get after the quarterback. If the Bengals do not improve much from their 4-11-1 record, the opposing teams will be run-heavy, and this will not play to Hendrickson’s strengths. With Joe Burrow and Joe Mixon healthy, the offense should not have an issue jumping out to early leads. Which should also lead to winning a lot more games for the Bengals.
Hendrickson will have his work cut out for him in the stacked AFC North and the firepower on the offensive side of the ball in that division. Chasing around Lamar Jackson will be a daunting task, but he showed how great he can be last year, and this franchise clearly believes in his talents and ability to grow.
The Bengals will need to be much better in order for Hendrickson to win the Defensive Player of the Year award. All the stars are aligning for the Bengals, and Hendrickson has the best chance of any player on the team to secure the award. His knack for getting after the quarterback and his extremely high motor are traits that translate to any franchise and system.
The 26-year old can prove that he can be one of the best defensive players in the NFL, and make the Bengals fans forget about losing Carl Lawson in free agency. If he can accomplish winning this award, or even be in the discussion for it, then the Bengals hit the lottery with this signing. He has all of the tools to win the award, it is simply a matter of remaining healthy and growing as an all-around defensive end to stay on the field more often.