Opportunity. In the National Football League, those who become among the most successful players in the sport of Pro Football, are usually the ones who make the most of opportunities whenever they present themselves. For New Orleans Saints 2nd year defensive end Trey Hendrickson, that time is right now.
Yesterday during Practice #9 of 2018 Saints Training Camp, Hendrickson and fellow 2nd year DE Al-Quadin Muhammad were once again given the starting nod as the two EDGE pass rushers on opposite ends of the D-Line during team drills; while regular starters Cam Jordan and Alex Okafor were given some well-deserved rest.
As reported originally by Times-Picayune / NOLA.com writer Amos Morale III: both Jordan and Okafor have been taking limited reps in the Saints' first few training camp practices as they recover from injuries, giving Hendrickson more time on the practice field.
And Morale adds: Hendrickson's trying to use it to his advantage.
"I'm blessed to be out here and I'm going to attack every rep that they put me in as hard as I can," Hendrickson said to reporters earlier in the week. "I want them to know what they are getting when they put me on the field."
Hendrickson, a 3rd-round selection by the Saints in last year's historic 2017 NFL Draft class, feels more confident in his second training camp with the team, he said. Even his teammates on the Saints D-Line have noticed.
"I feel like he's got his body underneath him more," Saints defensive tackle Tyeler Davison said. "Coming off the whole combine training and getting drafted and everything, it's hard to get your body all the way right that first year.
"He's got his body underneath him this year, and I feel like he's refined his pass rush even more."
Last season as a rookie, the 23-year old Hendrickson notched two sacks, two pass deflections, and a forced fumble in a limited back-up role as part of the Saints D-Line "NASCAR" rotational substitution packages that saw him participate in just 281 snaps during the 2017 regular season.
He was a situational pass rusher behind Jordan and Okafor in that role, and had figured to continue in that role moving forward with this year's rookie top draft pick Marcus Davenport in the mix.
However, Davenport has missed the last 4 consecutive practices in a row — giving Hendrickson even more playing time than the amount the team had planned on giving to him originally.
Hendrickson was only cleared to practice 2 weeks ago, after he sat out for a majority of the summer. He suffered a lower leg injury in a Week #16 win against the Atlanta Falcons and did not return to play until the postseason, recording 4 tackles (3 solo) in the Saints' two NFC Playoff games against Carolina Panthers and Minnesota.
But with Davenport's situation still up in the air for now, it could mean that Hendrickson will see even more playing time this coming Thursday Night, when the Saints face the Jaguars in their first Pre-Season game at TIAA Bank Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida.
Hendrickson for his part, told Morale and the other reporters covering the team that he is just happy to be competing for snaps.
"Good competition, that's what I thrive under," Hendrickson said.
"I can't speak for everybody but I'm interested to see how it all pans out, and if everybody works hard?"
"Then we're are all getting better."
I have to admit, it's getting better
A little better, all the time
Yes, I admit it's getting better
A little better, since you've mine
— The Beatles, 1967
For Hendrickson, "getting better" means refining his pass-rushing moves and techniques.
As Canal Street Chronicles co-Editor / Film Analyst Walter "Deuce" Windham notes in this fantastic analysis on Hendrickson's various strengths and weaknesses, Hendrickson made a major leap forward in his development towards the end of last year, and was able to hone his craft at rushing the passer.
Particularly, Windam says that Hendrickson was able to start using a "forklift move" where he utilized his speed coming off the outside edge; to slap on the outside hand of the opponent's offensive left tackle and then drive it up in the air — which forces the offensive tackle to "re-set" his position, but allows Hendrickson to successfully convert "speed to power" and make the play.
For Hendrickson, the only thing left to do now is to continue his growth and development; as he looks for any way to contribute for a young Saints defense that some observers believe will be a Top 5 unit this upcoming season.
Whether or not the team's defense does finish in the Top 5 League-wide, at least Saints fans can take comfort in the knowledge in the fact that if nothing else, they're loaded with young talent at the premium pass rush positions.
And without question: Hendrckson has certainly been one of those who has started to make a notable impact.