The Cincinnati Bengals paid Trey Hendrickson like a top defensive end, and so far he has played like one.
Through five games, Hendrickson already has 4.5 sacks, which is good for tenth in the NFL. Hendrickson has more sacks than Joey Bosa, Aaron Donald, and Shaq Barrett.
Last season was Hendrickson’s only season as a starter. Before then, he only had 6.5 sacks, six tackles for loss, and 18 quarterback hits in 30 games. In 2020, he started 15 games and had 13.5 sacks, 12 TFLs and 25 QB hits.
It was deemed risky to pay Hendrickson the way the Bengals did with only one year of solid production on his resume. Critics claimed that Hendrickson only succeeded because former All-Pro Cam Jordan was attracting attention on the other side.
In 2020, Jordan went to the Pro Bowl after recording 7.5 sacks—five fewer than Hendrickson that year. In fact, Jordan only had one season with more sacks than Hendrickson’s 2020 total.
After Week 5 of 2021, the Saints still are waiting for Jordan’s first sack of the year.
Carl Lawson was the Bengals’ leader in sacks in 2020, and he had 5.5. Hendrickson needs one more to match his total, and he has another 12 games to do it.
What does all this mean for the Bengals?
The Bengals finally have a pass rush that can get to the quarterback. We have been talking about the Bengals’ new and improved defense, which is seventh in scoring in the NFL through five games, and that starts up front.
The Bengals only need four more sacks to match their season total from a year ago. For what it’s worth, the Bengals had four sacks against the Steelers a couple of weeks ago, so it’s entirely possible that the Bengals match their 2020 total in Week 6.
Hendrickson leads the team in sacks and QB hits, and is third in TFLs. He has arguably had more of an impact on this defense than anyone else on the line.