The New Orleans Saints finished Monday’s game against the Houston Texans with a league-high six sacks against Deshaun Watson. While Watson showed courage and resilience escaping several additional sacks the Saints front seven can say they had a good day at the office when it comes to getting after the quarterback.
The biggest question involved however is whether Monday’s performance was more about the Texans struggles in building protection for their talented quarterback, or the Saints on the verge of having an elite and well rounded pass-rush.
In the 2018 season, New Orleans slowly started to project the creation of a unit not only working well together —but individually. Cameron Jordan of course led the group in sacks with 12 sacks as he’s done in every season since 2015. But since that year only one Saint has had over 6.5 sacks, that player being Sheldon Rankins.
Joining him strictly from the defensive line group was David Onyemata and first round pick Marcus Davenport, both totaling 4.5 quarterback bringdowns and Alex Okafor, who finished with four. Coming into Monday’s game however, due to suspension, injury, and relocation, only Davenport remained.
Cam Jordan was his normal self as he created several pressures including a sack and two hits on the aforementioned Watson. And while Davenport wasn’t able to flash in the box scores, he played well against the run most of the night, and had a plethora of other roles.
Watching Davenport drop in coverage and spy Watson https://t.co/3hH8cg6pjP— B S P N (@Public_B_Enemy) September 12, 2019
Considering the injuries, one would assume the Saints would have a hard night rushing the passer without Jordan finishing with multiple sacks and Davenport ending with a donut.
Enter Trey Hendrickson:
Saints' Trey Hendrickson beats two first-round picks AND a second-round pick on his way to a sack.— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) September 10, 2019
what a playpic.twitter.com/A9OqSXUn7k
Trey Hendrickson deserves some recognition for how well he played. Not only in the pass game, but made key stops on runs too.— AllSaintsConsidered.com (@AllSaintsBlog) September 12, 2019
Once Sheldon Rankins comes back, the packages you can create with Jordan, Davenport, Rankins, Hendrickson, Edwards, and Brown are going to be dangerous.
After finishing his rookie season in 2017 with two sacks and a phenomenal preseason leading into 2018, Hendrickson was unable to make an impact in the regular season as he only dressed for five games and was unable to record a sack.
Monday however was a different story as Hendrickson not only equaled his career sack total in Monday’s opener, but he also had positive plays in the run game and seemed to be more than just a temporary rotation fill in when it comes to the future.
Trey Hendrickson. He's carrying over what he showed in training camp into this game with that third-down sack.— Christopher Dabe (@cmdabe) September 10, 2019
Both of Trey Hendrickson’s fourth-quarter sacks came out of the NASCAR front. On the first one, Marcus Davenport initially dropped back in coverage. On the second one, Hendrickson blew by the left tackle. We first saw the Saints tinker with the NASCAR front late in training camp.— Herbie Teope (@HerbieTeope) September 10, 2019
We know it’s only one game and the defensive front will look different once the likes of Rankins, Onyemata, and Mario Edwards Jr. all return. But there’s a clear role for the nick-named “T-Rex” if he’s found a way to put things all together.
The Saints have missed an influx of edge performers to rotate when needed since the days of Will Smith, Darren Howard, and Charles Grant. We know what to expect from Cam Jordan, and Marcus Davenport will continue to make strides, but Hendrickson becoming a force would give the Saints an element and depth only adding to a team with Super Bowl aspirations once again.