(Photo Courtesy of Syracuse.com)
Everyone knows that hope of postseason play for the 2014 Buffalo Bills rides largely on the shoulders of quarterback E.J. Manuel. There are other big name players on the roster that will also contribute to the team’s success, but in this five part series, Dan Hannon looks to uncover “under the radar” players that will play significant roles in ending the team’s 14 year playoff drought.
OT Seantrel Henderson
It is difficult to classify a player as “under the radar” when most have known his name since he was a senior in high school. Seantrel Henderson had people all over the nation talking about his skill set when he was the #1 high school recruit in 2010, and then those same people talking about him for all the wrong reasons leading up the 2014 NFL draft.
The story of Seantrel Henderson has the opportunity to be one of redemption and salvation, something the Bills had in mind when they chose to take a chance on him in the 7th round of this year’s draft. Henderson was lucky to get that chance, and up to this point, has made the most it. If you need evidence as to why Henderson may be more unique than most players, look at the fact that he was thrust into the starting lineup on day one of training camp when it was announced that Cordy Glenn would miss time due to an undisclosed injury. Most 7th round picks are lucky to see time on the 3rd string on day one of camp, let alone protecting the starting QB’s blind spot.
It has been so far so good for the massive Miami product, but we are also just a couple weeks in to his professional career. A career in which he, along with the Bills, hopes goes much differently than his collegiate career.
After an extremely polished high school career in which he became the first lineman to win Minnesota Player of the Year and also winning the state championship, Henderson originally signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Southern California. He left his Minnesota home in the fall, but did not go out west, due to USC’s impeding sanctions resulting from their Reggie Bush recruiting scandal. Instead, he chose southern Florida to showcase his talents, and officially committed to the University of Miami. He has recently admitted it was a tough adjustment for him going to “The U,” as he was not mature enough to handle the fame. He became the Hurricanes’ starting left tackle as a freshman, and he ran into some bad decision making throughout his career. Imagine that, an 18 year old kid away from home for the first time, making bad decisions in a big time school where he was looked at as a God. Go figure.
When you are a division one NCAA football player, especially one as highly touted by NFL scouts as Henderson was, you do not get time to adjust to the college lifestyle. The spotlight is on you from day one, with very little room for error. Despite playing up to his potential early on, too many incidents overshadowed his on-field accolades. A car accident in the summer of 2012 resulted in two children being sent to the hospital after Henderson, who was driving with an expired license, ran a red light. He was also suspended one game for violating team rules, and three other times throughout his career at Miami due to marijuana use.
Despite all that, Henderson entered draft season with a chance to somewhat wipe his slate clean, and show he matured enough that his character may finally be creeping up close to his talent. Unfortunately, he failed yet another drug test at the NFL scouting combine, and then walked off the field during the Miami pro day. While Henderson vows he was dehydrated and pushed himself to his limit, critics and many scouts viewed the act as quitting. Negative assumptions tend to be made against someone with as many strikes against them as Henderson has. This is why a man with the perfect frame for an NFL left tackle, 6’7 331 lbs with over 34”arms; fell into the Bills’ lap.
While it is extremely early in Henderson’s career, and Coach Marrone has went on record saying “he has a lot to work on,” it is still fun to think about the possibilities of his future with the Bills. With Cordy Glenn slotted into the left tackle position for at least this season, and not thought to be in danger of missing week one, the right tackle position could be Henderson’s for the taking. The Bills drafted OT Cyrus Kuoandjio in the second round out of Alabama in hopes he would overtake incumbent Eric Pears on the depth chart, but Kuandjio has been rawer than they anticipated. Pears has been average to below average the past couple years, but so far in camp and through one week of pre-season, has done enough to fend off the young rookie.
If Henderson proves his worth, the Bills may also want to think of moving Glenn inside to Left Guard, a position many thought he would be a better fit at coming out of college. With Chris Williams tentatively in the starting role for 2014, and coming off a year in which he was rated the worst interior lineman by ProFootballFocus.com, they Bills should not rule out any situation. At the very least, the depth Henderson provides could prove valuable as the season wears down and injuries pile up. In his first game action, Henderson was faced with the task of controlling Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants, who has 25 sacks in the last three years. Henderson more than held his own, keeping Pierre-Paul off the stat sheet, while playing into the third quarter.
The Bills took a low-risk-high-reward player in which they thought would benefit their team down the line if they could, “get rid of his demons,” as GM Doug Whaley put it. So far, however, they have gotten the gift of a first round talent finally starting to realize his potential not only in football, but in life. Henderson knows this is his last chance, and seems to be responding positively. As of now, the immature student that couldn’t stay out of trouble to stay on the field at Miami has been absent, and the grown man people have been waiting years for has been performing at St. John Fisher. If he can continue to progress he will not only help this team short term by adding much needed depth to the offensive line, but long term Seantrel Henderson could be viewed as one of the biggest steals in Buffalo Bills draft history.
Extra thoughts I have that did not make their way into the article
- Thoughts on tonight’s game, as the Bills travel down to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers in their second pre-season game of 2014:
- Although E.J. tried forcing it to him a few times in pre-season week one (which I do mind at this point), rookie WR Sammy Watkins did not touch the ball once during the game. This has to change. I do not care when, or how, but Watkins needs to touch the ball tonight. As a good friend of mine mentioned to me, the city of Buffalo may go into a state of panic if he doesn’t.
- As the offensive line continues to progress and compete, I am very interested to see how Cyrus Kuoandjio responds after a rough first NFL game. He was beaten horribly and ridiculed for his technique while giving up a sack, but bounced back to at least hold his own after that play. The former SEC All-Freshmen team member just turned legal to drink in the US, and I find it hard to believe he has faced much adversity in his life in terms of his football play. It will be interesting to see how mentally tough he is moving forward.
- Is Chris Hogan really ahead of Robert Woods in the coaching staff’s eyes? Week one was either a wakeup call or a strong dose of reality for Woods, we will see what happens tonight.
- After a strong performance from the first defense’s linebacker corps, the second team was shredded against the run. Rookie Randall Johnson looked horrendous, and fellow Rookie Preston Brown, who came in from college known for his run stuffing ability, did not stick out very positively either. You have to hope the second
- Big opportunity for Duke Williams tonight with Da’Norris Searcy being excused from the last two practices for personal reasons. Williams had the hit of the game Sunday night, flying up from his safety spot to stick the Giants running back in this tracks, and will see time with the first team D tonight. It’s hard to imagine anything outside injury will knock Searcy down the depth chart at all, but the opportunity is there for Williams none the less.
- Let’s hope my man D-Hop can continue his strong kickoff performance. Hopkins drilled four touchbacks in four opportunities in week one.
- Pretty disappointed to see Cam is not playing, but this is a good Panthers team with an especially good defense that should be a good test for the Bills offense.