This week's Classic Jurassic Meat-Eater Matchup pits a star on the rise in the form of Cincinnati Bengals DE Trey Hendrickson, and a young lion for the Steelers at LT, Dan Moore Jr.
In his first season with the Bengals after coming over from the Saints, Hendrickson was named to his first Pro Bowl, and landed on the NFL Network's "Top 100" at #78. Along the way, Hendrickson set a new club record with a personal best 14 sacks, beating his total of 13.5 sacks he recorded the year before with the Saints.
Over his career, Hendrickson has sacked the opposition's QB 34 times in 61 games. Throw in 12 TFL's, and 27 QBH's last year (2021), and you realize this guy hunts the ball on the other side of the line of scrimmage with a voracious appetite. And those numbers ultimately speak to the force Hendrickson became in leading the Bengals to their third Super Bowl appearance in team history.
Yes, Hendrickson is a terrific pass rusher, no doubt about it. But he's more than just a pass rusher. Possessing superior sub 4.7 speed in the forty, his size (6-4, 270), and innate ability and quickness allows him to get off the line of scrimmage at the snap, and makes him equally dangerous for quick penetration, or in some instances, running step for step in coverage with a back on a wheel route.
Hendrickson is no flash in the pan quarterback hunter either, having recorded at least a half sack in 11 straight games, the longest such streak in Bengal's team history, which also tied him for the second-longest streak in NFL history. This is no normal "cat."
And when it was money time last year, over the course of Cincy's four playoff games, Hendrickson bagged and pinned another 3.5 QB pelts to his trophy wall.
When you turn the film on, Hendrickson is a slick, quick hand fighter that can get up the field and to the edge quickly. He's got a nice slap, trap and uppercut, and if his opponent gets head heavy (leaning forward), he'll spin him like a turnstile. Alternately using speed rush and inside arm stab and spear bull rush techniques allows Hendrickson to keep the opponent guessing. He also will pull out a speed to power rush similar to the late, great Steeler, Kevin Green. He can run a tight arc on the back door given the opportunity, and if he gets driven up field too far, he'll spin to recover pass rush leverage.
Hendrickson versus the run is no day at the beach, either. At the point of attack, he can set the edge with strength and power, while keeping his shoulders square and using his hands extremely well in close quarter combat. Rarely will you see him off balance, or over extending. From the backside, he will squeeze his run-fits with discipline and patience, and a desire to crash the party every chance he gets.
Definitely a high motor guy, Hendrickson combines maximizing his leverage with quickness and balance, power with a relentless desire to hunt, and good football "game brains." Attempting to neutralize Trey Hendrickson will be a huge task.
One of the areas to exploit for Moore is to use his huge size (6-5, 315), length and strength to lock up and force Hendrickson to fight him in close quarter combative situations. Keeping a low pad level, making sure not to drop his head and punching in a timely fashion will go a long ways towards keeping Hendrickson on his side of the ball. As always, it's never really just a one man job over the course of a game. Screens, TE delays, chips with RB's, and wall protection are weapons in the tool kit of Matt Canada that will help. And possibly the biggest key of all, the ability for the Steelers to run the ball effectively on first down, putting the Steelers offense in makeable 3rd down situations.
For the Steelers to defeat the Bengals, Trey Hendrickson has to be neutralized. The main work falls to Dan Moore, who will have to step up and produce as he did last year. This should be a "battle royale," a classic, Jurassic Meat-Eater matchup to kick off the season.