Over the last few weeks, the Jets have added a few players to their active roster and we’ve been taking an in-depth look at their strengths and weaknesses. Today we’re looking at running back De’Angelo Henderson.
The 26-year old Henderson is listed as 5’7” and 208 pounds and was signed to the Jets’ practice squad after being released in final cuts by the Broncos. He’s since been activated to the roster a couple of times. The Broncos had drafted him in the sixth round last year and he saw some late season action as a rookie, generating 49 yards and a touchdown on nine touches.
Henderson went to college at Coastal Carolina, where he began his career in 2013 after having taken a greyshirt year.
After rushing for 599 yards and six touchdowns in his first season, Henderson wrapped up his career with three straight thousand yard seasons. He racked up 4,635 rushing yards in his college career and also caught 97 passes. In all, he accounted for 64 touchdowns, including six as a receiver.
After attending the scouting combine, Henderson was drafted in the sixth round of the 2017 draft, just 15 places after Elijah McGuire.
Henderson established himself as something of a fan favorite in Denver, although he was mostly a healthy scratch throughout his rookie year. He had just two carries and one catch entering the final game of the season, but then rushed for 15 yards on five carries and caught a 29-yard touchdown pass in the season finale.
In preseason action, Henderson has had some impressive moments, as he’s rushed for 232 yards and a touchdown on 53 carries and also caught 11 passes. However, once the undrafted Phillip Lindsay started to emerge in training camp, his chances of making the roster were slim.
Having kept him on their practice squad since the beginning of the season, Henderson was activated for one game by the Jets in October and also for last week’s game, but hasn’t seen action on offense yet. He’s still the third running back heading into the season finale.
Let’s look in more detail at what Henderson brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.
Henderson has mostly been used as a conventional half back by the Broncos, although they also used him in some two-back sets. He’s played a few snaps lined up out wide or in the slot, but not contributed much from there. In college, he would occasionally get carries on jet sweep-style plays.
Henderson is short but stocky with a low center of gravity. He reportedly showed up a little lighter for his second training camp.
At the combine, Henderson posted some good numbers, including a 4.48 40-yard dash, 20 bench press reps and a good broad jump. However, his vertical was average, as were his agility numbers based on his pro day workout.
Henderson runs with good balance and a decisive style. He can be elusive in space and has some shake-and-bake to his game, as well as an ability to get skinny through a running lane.
His coaches have said he has good long speed and he showed those breakaway abilities many times in college. Henderson also flashed this as a rookie in preseason action when his 41-yard burst with 1:49 to go was the winning score over the Bears.
He’s also capable of finishing runs well and can be effective in short yardage and goal line situations.
Henderson was a productive receiver in college although this mostly came on short passes. He averaged almost 10 yards per reception and scored six touchdowns.
At the pro level, Henderson has again been productive on short passes, posting 11 receptions for 82 yards in preseason action and two catches for 36 yards and a touchdown in regular season games.
He’s proven to be sure-handed and reliable in those situations, as he’s recorded those 13 catches on 13 targets. However, he doesn’t really bring the same receiving and route running skill-set as the likes of McGuire, Bilal Powell and Trenton Cannon.
Henderson’s lack of size and a well below-average wingspan also limit his potential as a pass catching back, although his hand size is above average.
The book on Henderson coming out of Coastal Carolina was that ball security was a potential concern and this manifested himself when he fumbled twice in the third preseason game of his rookie year. While he hasn’t fumbled since at the pro level, this is still something that might keep him off the field.
Henderson doesn’t bring much to the table as a blocker either. He lacks experience in that role and the Broncos hardly ever asked him to do it, even in preseason action. What film there is of him doing this indicates that he can be moved off his spot relatively easily.
Henderson didn’t play special teams in college and the Jets have only used him on one special teams play so far. However, the Broncos definitely saw some potential in him and he made a few tackles on special teams with the kick coverage units for them.
His skill-set also makes him a potential option as a kick returner and the Broncos used him in that role in the last game of the 2017 season. He returned two kick-offs for 32 and 27 yards.
Henderson doesn’t dance around in the backfield and scouting reports suggest that he can lack patience. However, he has good instincts and displays good vision in the open field.
After initially struggling to become academically eligible at the start of his college career, Henderson was able to establish himself as a player whose coaches lauded for his excellent work ethic. He’s reportedly always got his head buried in a playbook and watches a ton of film as he is keen to keep learning.
Henderson hasn’t had any major injury issues, but was hospitalized following a nasty car accident in May. While he avoided serious injury, he suffered many bumps and bruises which ate into his offseason preparation.
With his decisive style, Henderson would seem to be a good fit for the Jets’ running game, having been drafted by a team that had just replaced the current Jets’ running game coordinator Rick Dennison and no doubt retained elements of his system.
However, if the coaching staff changes during the offseason, it’s possible the blocking scheme will too.
Henderson’s running ability is impressive and he’s shown some good potential in his preseason action, but he’s not really much of an option as a workhorse back and doesn’t add much value yet in the way of passing game versatility or special teams contributions.
Whether Henderson will get a chance on Sunday remains to be seen, but a player with his work ethic and desire to succeed would seem like a good bet to be brought back to compete in camp next season as an exclusive rights free agent.