The Saints’ Trey Hendrickson took a while to get going this season due to a lingering neck injury, but in his third season, the young defensive end had his best season to date as a rotational pass rusher. While his role was still fairly niche, Hendrickson logged 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble for the Saints, while looking generally more disruptive while he was in the game.
Hendrickson played a career-high 38 percent of defensive snaps for the Saints last season, thanks in part to a defense that frequently forced third-and-passing downs. 3.5 of Hendrickson’s stats came on third down, plus the one that he logged in the Wild Card round against the Vikings.
Where Hendrickson will need to continue to evolve, of course, is in the running game. He logged 19 total tackles this season, a career-best, though he was on pace for 32 last season, in which he played only five games. Hendrickson’s role in the running game is, of course, to seal the edge off. If he’s going to continue to play outside on first or second down, he needs to prove he can do so.
That job will only get more important next season. With both Super Bowl teams this year frequently using receivers in the running game on sweeps and end arounds, the ability to stay home and make disruptive plays will be invaluable. The Saints were very susceptible to those types of plays this year, so whoever can stop them will become an indispensable part of the roster.
Next season is the final year of Hendrickson’s rookie contract, so staying healthy is going to be priority No. 1. The Saints may seek out more defensive line help next season — No team can ever have enough depth there — but Hendrickson has proven capable of emerging from the fray. The Saints seem enamored with the young end, and he’s shown some real potential. The key will now be tapping into that potential for a contract season to earn a payday.