The Cincinnati Bengals went out on a limb going into the 2021 NFL offseason. They opted to let their established pass rusher Carl Lawson walk in free agency in order to sign Trey Hendrickson, who was coming off a career season with the New Orleans Saints. He had recorded 13.5 sacks, and many labeled him a one-year wonder.
Since then, Hendrickson has repaid Cincinnati’s faith in him by racking up two top pass-rushing seasons in a row. He had 14 sacks in 2021, and this year he finished among the Top 10 edge rushers in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
Hendrickson has emerged as one of the better pass-rush specialists in the league over the past few seasons, improving his pass-rush grade every year since 2019. His most recent improvement landed him among the top five players at his position in terms of pass-rush grade, and while that didn’t translate into the sack production of others in that range, he still made a significant impact with 18 quarterback hits (fourth most among edge defenders) and a 17.03% pressure rate (eighth).
This is a masterclass in why the number of sacks isn’t the best determinant of how good a pass rusher is in the NFL. Even though Hendrickson only finished the season with eight sacks, he still maintained his dominant play. It is just a matter of the quarterbacks just being able to get rid of the ball just quick enough a little more often.
It is safe to say that Hendrickson has been a huge piece in the rapid turnaround of this defense we saw from 2020 into 2021 and beyond. One of the big things will be whether they can keep him around when the time comes, but until then we can all enjoy watching him and Sam Hubbard get after opposing quarterbacks.