Matt Hennessy has a lot of ties to the New York area. He is from Bardonia, a small hamlet in Rockland County that is about 15 miles northwest of White Plains. He went to high school at Don Bosco Prep, a private school (known for its athletics) off the Franklin Turnpike in Ramsey, a town in north New Jersey.
While at Don Bosco he played as a right tackle and went up against some of the best football prospects in the country as a teenager. That is where Hennessy believes he developed the skill set to play in the NFL. Those harsh lessons against some of the elite players that molded his abilities.
“I think it goes back to high school, playing at Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey, playing against guys like Nick Bosa and Rashan Gary,” Hennessy said. “And, like, while those matchups weren’t favorable for me in high school, I definitely saw that I could compete with those guys, and at the college level I saw it even more.”
Asked if he would like to come back to the New Jersey area and play for the Jets or Giants Hennessy’s eyes lit up. “It would be incredible,” he said. “I grew up a huge Giants fan, had season tickets, went to every game through probably like 2010. So that would be incredible.”
It would be even more special to play with the Jets because...well because his older brother Thomas Hennessy is the Jets long snapper. When asked specifically about playing for the Jets Matt said, “Oh, that’d be incredible. That’d be incredible, we never got the chance to play together, he’s always been a bunch of years ahead of me.”
Thomas Hennessy is four years older than Matt, but they have always been as close as brothers can be. The dynamic is always interesting and personal. “We’re super-close,” Matt said of Thomas. “We used to fight a ton when we were younger, just because we’re both really competitive … He’s kind of been one of my biggest influences throughout my teenage years, coming to where I am now.”
Thomas was a unheralded player from Duke University. He didn’t get to attend the Combine, the Senior Bowl, or the NFL draft. He was a UDFA so Matt is kind of on his own now in terms of what to expect.
Matt experienced indifference himself, just in high school. He was not highly recruited out of Don Bosco as scouting services did not grade him highly. “I think colleges saw me as a tackle, but just a small one,” Matt said.
It was then-Temple coach Matt Rhule who first saw the potential in Matt’s game. Rhule’s adroit eye for talent spotted Matt at a Temple recruiting camp. “Coach Rhule actually found me, during one of the one-on-one sessions and ended up offering me a scholarship,” Hennessy said. “He was like, ‘I know you’re playing tackle now, but you have the ideal skill-set for a center.’”
During the Draft process Matt had a chance to cross paths with his old coach, the man who put him on his current career direction. “It was real weird, seeing them,” Hennessy said. “They’ve all got the Panthers stuff on and four years ago we were sitting at my dining room table … It’s weird crossing paths again.”
It’s funny that coach Rhule could have been the coach of the Jets this year if not Mike Maccagnan’s assistance to pick his coaches for him. Heck, Mike Maccagnan might still be here as well. One thing leads to another. Maybe Matt will be a Jet. He could be a Panther if Coach Rhule feels he can move on from Matt Paradis. We shall see.
Let’s take a look at Matt Hennessy’s skill set and if it matches with the Jets’ needs.
In case you didn’t knowm Matt Hennessy was the center for Temple University in Philadelphia. He is #58 in these clips. In this first play Hennessy moves to his right to pick up the defensive tackle as the right guard pulls around the edge to block absolutely no one.
Hennessy come off the ball low in great leverage position. It seems to surprise the big tackle as Hennessy hits him in the mid section with his shoulder pads. The tackle tries to fight over the block but loses his footing and goes down. He wasn’t getting anywhere near the play anyway as the outside pursuit took the RB down for no gain.
This next clip is against UCF and is of a drive block against the nose guard. Drive blocking is the worst trait Hennessy has. He may need to work with the strength coach to help him develop more power.
The nose guard on this play helps Hennessy as the entire line is slanting right at the snap. Hennessy is in great technical position with his knees bent. He gets lower, makes contact with the nose guard, rolls his hips through the block, and extends his arms going up into the chest plate of the defender. This is called “hammering the nail” as he punches up with his thumbs up to drive the defender back. This is probably about the best he can do right now, and it’s more than enough on this play.
These next two plays are in pass blocking, an area where Hennessy excels.
Here he is going against the player he just struggled to drive out of the hole in the last play. Blocking in pass sets is a different animal. You don’t have to move the defender anywhere, just keep him away from you QB. Hennessy has great movement skills, and the nose guard doesn’t so it’s a better matchup for Hennessy.
If you can take away the nose tackle’s power then you can pretty easily keep him away from your QB. This is another textbook example of blocking by Hennessy as he has great balance. His feet are outside his shoulders. His arms are extended with a good grip on the nose tackle inside his his pads. It’s a great job by the center when the play looks more like a slow dance than a pass rush. It is also a help that Hennessy gets the big tackle to play tall which takes away all his leverage.
Just so you know it’s not a fluke, here he is blocking later in the same game.
Again this is the same great technique with the slow dance barely making it across the line of scrimmage. The defender is far away from the QB. He is closer to the RB who catches the ball out of the backfield than the QB.
Another skill set for a center is to move to the 2nd level and pick up a block. This is Hennessy’s 2nd worst trait. Although he has great movement skills, he is either late to get out or he misses the scrapping linebacker. This is an area where he needs improvement.
Here he does a good job. He gets to the linebacker and cuts him off before he can decide which route to take to the RB. Hennessy has great snap to first step quickness so his issues in this area are fixable. Hennessy has only been a center since he got to Temple so he is still in a learning mode.
This next play is an adaptation of an angle block as the guard is doing a combo block on the side of the defensive lineman, and the center is going to try and move him away from the direction of the play.
Once the guard hits the defender Hennessy then pulls him out of the way to clear the area. This is not great technique and is semi-illegal. Still, it gets the job done. It is kind of a difficult block. Hennessy would normally move to his right to get the best angle on the defensive tackle, but the guard is there so he can’t get to the correct side of the block.
These last two clips are of combo blocks. Combo blocks are used quite frequently by centers against even defensive fronts. It’s a skill Hennessy has. This is weird because he doesn’t do as well just getting to the 2nd level to find scraping linebackers. The only difference is he is picking up backside defenders in the combo blocks, not frontside scraping linebackers.
Hennessy is quick on this play as he gets a cursory block on the nose tackle who is then picked up by the guard. Hennessy almost bounces off the nose man then shoots out to the OLB who he takes out of the way. This is a dead play, but Hennessy had two good and efficient blocks. He has great lateral movement so teams who use a zone blocking scheme will be looking long and hard at Hennessy.
This last combo block was made more difficult as the offensive line is slanting to the side where Hennessy has to make his block. He comes off the ball super quick then gets the necessary block to take the defensive tackle out of the hole. He then is able to get the proper angle on the linebacker who is scraping down the line to keep him out of the play.
All in all Hennessy has a good all around skill set to be successful in the NFL, especially if you have zone concepts in your offensive scheme. Teams who run a power/gap system or have a vertical passing offense may want a player who is a little more stout at the point of attack. Hennessy has the highest PFF grade (86.5) of any center in college football in 2019.
Hennessy did not allow a sack and gave up only 4 total pressures in 828 snaps during the 2019 season. In his 3 years at Temple he allowed a grand total of 14 pressures and zero sacks. He was the leader of a line that had the 29th best running game in college football. The offensive line as a whole was rated #23 in the country.
Hennessy played his high school football a mere 18 miles from MetLife Stadium and it would be a homecoming for sorts for Matt to play for the Jets, in the stadium of the team he rooted for he would watch with season tickets and to play with his brother.
He has only been playing the center position for 4 years so he is still in the learning mode. You would have to believe that NFL coaching would only increase his abilities and understanding of the position. I currently have a low 3rd round grade on Matt but I believe he will probably be gone sometime around the top of the 3rd round or late 2nd.
That is what I think.
What do you think?