Birthday: August 3, 1980
Strengths: Eric “E.J.” Henderson had a breakout year in 2001 under new Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen. The high-motor middle linebacker flew around the field, racking up 150 tackles and 28 tackles for loss and making numerous game-impacting plays for the upstart Terps. Henderson may lack great stopwatch speed, but his rare instincts and vision always seem to have him moving in the right direction and his tremendous lateral movement and change-of-direction abilities give him sideline-to-sideline range. He is also a punishing hitter who rarely misses a tackle.
Unlike many middle linebackers, Henderson does not need to come off the field on passing downs. He is effective in coverage, having finished his junior season with an interception and four passes broken up. Henderson also thrived as a blitzer in Maryland’s more aggressive scheme last season, as he recorded six sacks and seven hurries.
Areas for Concern: Henderson had surgery in April to remove bone spurs from his back, causing him to miss spring practice. Friedgen reported as of late July that Henderson was pain-free and at about 75%. Henderson’s status for Maryland’s season opener remains unclear. This situation could have a major impact on his draft status as back problems tend to be recurring and often career-shortening.
Henderson, who received his degree in criminology and criminal justice in May, found himself on an unexpected field trip last September when he was arrested for DWI hours after Maryland’s defeat of West Virginia. The case is still working its way through the legal system, but this appears to be an isolated incident rather than part of a pattern of trouble. Friedgen punished Henderson for the transgression by suspending him for the opening defensive series of Maryland’s next game.
How Would He Look in Steel Blue? If his back passes medical inspection, Henderson would be a natural at one of the inside spots in the Texans’ linebacker-oriented defense. While he may lack the workout numbers of an elite prospect, when judged purely as a football player, Henderson jumps to the head of the class. After coaching 5’9″ All-Pro Sam Mills in the USFL, New Orleans, and Carolina, no doubt Dom Capers and Vic Fangio can appreciate the fact that an inside linebacker doesn’t have to have to be 6’3″, 255 lbs. and run a 4.4 40 as long as he has the instincts, vision, and intensity.
Henderson, who blocked two kicks last year, could also contribute on special teams. The Texans have a couple sources within the organization of first-hand information on him in Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Ray Wright, who filled the same role for Maryland last season, and rookie defensive lineman Charles Hill, Henderson’s college teammate for four years. A clean bill of health on Henderson’s back is key, though.
(profile written by Warren DeLuca
E.J. Henderson’s 2001 Stats G TCK TFL SKS FF FR INT 11 103 28 6 2 1 1
E.J. Henderson Return to The War Room
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