Why Trey Hendrickson is a serious Dark Horse DPOY candidate

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.

3 reasons why the Bengals have a “chance” to win the AFC North

Can the Bengals win the AFC North?

By: Jake Rajala

The young Cincinnati Bengals team led by now second-year quarterback Joe Burrow finished last in the AFC North in 2020. As training camp kicks off for Cincy, there’s a lot of reason for new optimism heading into the 2021 season. 

The Bengals have upgraded the offensive weapons for Burrow, reeled in big free agent names on defense, and retained excellent Bengals. With a new-look team and attitude, the Zac Taylor mentored squad has their sights set on accomplishing great feats in 2021. Kay Adams, who leads the Good Morning Football crew, boldly predicts that Burrow will even lead the Bengals to a playoff berth. 

I believe that a playoff trip is very possible and the Bengals will be serious competitors in each of their 17 game slate. Yet, I want to take the bar a step further. It appears to be the potential playoff team should be in the conversation for a division title. It will be a serious hurdle for the 4-11-1 Bengals squad from a season ago to transcend into divisions, but it’s a real possibility

Here is why the Bengals stand a chance to win the AFC North in 2021.

  • Much improved pass rush

The Bengals passed the ball the second-most in the league with Joe Burrow under the helm. If Burrow’s offense is going to try and blow defenses out of the building, they need to be able to prevent offenses from torching their own defense. It doesn’t matter if the Bengals can put up high-scoring efforts if they can’t stop any opposing signal-caller. The Bengals were dreadful in 2020 at chasing QBs, as they ranked dead last in sacking the QB.

In 2021, there’s a lot of confidence in the Bengals front seven to have a turnaround and harass opposing QBs at will. The biggest difference will come from newly acquired pass rusher Trey Hendrickson. Hendrickson had more sacks than Aaron Donald, despite missing one game and playing in a rotation with Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport. The Bengals may have lost Carl Lawson, but they will have Sam Hubbard to lean in as a replacement. Hubbard notched 8.5 sacks in 2019. 

  • Ravens and Steelers QB situation

The Ravens and Steelers have undoubtedly stacked teams. Nonetheless, there are shaky factors with the Ravens QB and Steelers QB. These negative sides of the two divisional QB profiles could arise in 2021. 

The Steelers and Ravens carry the hardest course of schedule in the NFL. Lamar may be very electric, but he’s struggled mightily when tasked with facing quality teams on the big stage. He lost most of his CFB championship games, he’s been mostly porous on MNF showdowns, and he carries a 1-3 playoff record. Unfortunately, Lamar will be facing more talented teams in 2021 than he has in his career. 

Big Ben has often been a clutch player in big moments and he’s a sincere season veteran. However, the Steelers QB is clearly on the downhill of his career. The QB recorded a career-low Y/A in 2020 (6.3), which was a yard lower than his previous career-low (7.3). The Steelers QB is clearly on his last legs and he may see a sharper decline in what appears to be his last season in the NFL. I believe if the worst-case scenario at QB shows up for Pittsburgh, they could realistically squeeze out 7-9 wins, while the Ravens could get only 8-10 with a down year from Lamar. 

Truthfully, the Browns are AFC North favorites (no surprise) and real Super Bowl contenders. The Bengals will have to beat the Browns at least once, but it would be a tight finish for the prize if everything goes exceptionally well for the Bengals. The Bengals would need to reach their ceiling of 11 wins while beating the Browns at least once. Outside of beating the Browns head to head, a below-average version of OBJ and Clowney will have to surface for CLE throughout most of their season, while the pass defense needs to struggle if the Bengals want to edge out the Browns for AFC North glory.

Why New Bengals DE Trey Hendrickson will be the sack king in 2021

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:

Hendrickson’s Line

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.

Competition

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. 

Top Five Worst Free Agency Signings

By: Tayyib Abu

NFL free agency began with a bang last week as teams started to construct their rosters for 2021. Free agency is the first tentpole of the offseason, it precedes the draft, and fans can finally see what moves their team makes. At this time of the year, every fan is excited. It is the season of new hope. Conversely, it is also the time of year when teams make some mistakes. In their desperation, franchises may overpay for veterans or, they might make too many desperate moves. Last week saw many talking heads talk about which team made the right moves; therefore, it’s time to look at the wrong signings.

Nelson Agholor – New England Patriots

The New England Patriots splashed the cash in the first days of free agency. After missing out on the playoffs, New England is eager to rectify that in 2021. That is why the team spent big money on several players last week. A lot of those moves made sense for the Patriots, although one didn’t.

The Patriots inked wideout Nelson Agholor to a two-year $22 million deal. That is an exorbitant amount to give to a veteran receiver, specifically in a crowded market where no wideouts are getting top dollar. In comparison to Agholor, Juju Smith Schuster got a one-year $8 million contract. The Steelers pass-catcher is much better than Agholor at this stage of their careers.

Agholor shone for Las Vegas as the deep-threat on passing routes. His 2020 stat line read like this; 48 receptions, 896 yards and eight touchdowns. Going off those stats, Agholor is an inspired signing. It was the best season of his career. At 27, it felt like it came too late. Throughout his career, Agholor’s played very inconsistently. He’s only played a whole season three times in his career; moreover, Agholor is streaky. He experiences spells where he drops balls, struggles with his routes and can lose confidence.

Patriots quarterback Cam Newton is wildly inconsistent as well. The Patriots needed to sign a reliable number-one target. Agholor’s never been that in his career. Outside of deep-post routes or vertical routes, Agholor will struggle in New England. Newton’s arm is not as powerful as it was before.

Consequently, the deep-routes may not be the best plan for New England. If New England strays away from that plan, Agholor could become redundant as the Pats run the ball out of 22 personnel. Signing a streaky wideout to a big contract is overkill. New England could’ve spent the money elsewhere, especially with a loaded receiver class in the draft.

Kenny Golladay – New York Giants

Kenny Golladay signed an eye-watering four-year $72 million contract. As other receivers got the bare minimum, Golladay received the big bag of money he desired. Intrinsically, signing Golladay is not a bad thing. On the other hand, signing him to that deal is a big mistake. The former Detroit Lion is injury-prone. He’s played one 16-game season once in his career.

Moreover, there is the glaring issue of the quarterback. Daniel Jones is still wildly inconsistent; he straddles the lines of glory and disaster like a tight-rope walker. Jones requires players that create separation from defenders. Golladay is not that player.

He excelled in Detroit due to his skill at catching contested balls; plus, he had a quarterback that could rifle the ball into tight windows. Daniel Jones doesn’t possess Matthew Stafford’s bazooka arm. Jones isn’t the player to jam a ball in a tight window on his receivers’ back shoulder. That is Golladay’s bread and butter.

Kenny Golladay is a terrific receiver; however, the Giants won’t see that with Daniel Jones. New York effectively paid Golladay $18 million in 2021 to evaluate Jones. That is like buying the most expensive training-wheels for a bike missing a wheel. No team should ever overpay a skill-positions player to make a judgment on the quarterback. That is a recipe for disaster; especially, if Jones can’t make it work with an elite receiver.

Andy Dalton – Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears’ miserable offseason continued as they signed quarterback Andy Dalton. After courting Russell Wilson, Chicago settled for the Red Rifle. Dalton is an upgrade on Trubisky, of that there is no doubt. Sadly, he isn’t Russell Wilson and because of the Bears fans understandable anger, Dalton is in a lose-lose situation.

It gets worse for Chicago. The Bears needed to release Pro-Bowl cornerback Kyle Fuller to clear space for Dalton. Chicago could’ve signed Dalton for less money last year; instead, they traded a pick for Nick Foles. Dalton is a solid quarterback, nevertheless, Chicago overpaid for a quarterback that doesn’t make them a contender in the NFC North.

Rayshawn Jenkins – Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguars came into free agency with a ton of cap space. Urban Meyer was ready to attack his first season in the NFL. Strangely, Jacksonville opted to sign safety Rayshawn Jenkins to a $35 million contract that may rise to $39.5 million.

Jenkins is notorious for his lousy tackling, plus he’s only notched five interceptions in his career. The 2021 draft boasts a wealth of talent at the safety position. The Jags own picks throughout the early rounds; they could draft a premier safety like Richie Grant or Trevon Moehrig instead of spending money on Jenkins, who’s struggled mightily in his career so far. The Jags would own more cap flexibility and a better player on the roster if they didn’t sign Jenkins.

Trey Hendrickson – Cincinnati Bengals

Paying players for the number of sacks they posted is a risky move. That is what the Bengals did in signing Trey Hendrickson. The former Saints player shone last year as he totaled 13.5 sacks; Although Hendrickson did play on a fantastic line in New Orleans.

A lot of his success can get dished to the other players as well as himself. The Bengals inked Hendrickson to a massive $60 million contract. It is a huge contract, one that Hendrickson mightn’t deliver on.

Hendrickson is a speed-rusher, one that beats players in one-on-one battles. The Bengals defensive line doesn’t boast the depth of talent that New Orleans’ did. That will become a problem for Hendrickson as he will get double-teamed a lot more.

Hendrickson lacks the power to bull-rush past defenders, he will need help from the other players on the defensive line. The Bengals spent a lot of money on Hendrickson; if they are to see an improvement on the line, they’ll need to spend some more.

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