This past Sunday, the NFL looked back on some of its most memorable players as they were enshrined for eternity in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Yet, back here in the present, the off-season continues to roll. The flavor of the day? Cornerback news. No sooner had the news broke that disgruntled star Xavien Howard had reconciled with the Miami Dolphins, rumors surfaced that the Jacksonville Jaguars were reportedly shopping 2020 draftee C.J. Henderson.
Henderson, the ninth overall pick in 2020, is believed by several unnamed NFL executives to be available in Jacksonville. Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer, when quizzed by reporters, cited personal reasons for Henderson’s absences from practice. The Arizona Cardinals, who missed out on Howard, having been heavily linked, could look to Henderson to solve some of their ongoing issues at cornerback.
Arizona Cardinals Could Consider Trade For C.J. Henderson
Profiling C.J. Henderson
C.J. Henderson is a top-10 selection. Ninth overall, Henderson was taken one spot after Isaiah Simmons, the Cardinals top overall pick. Coming out of Florida, Henderson was highly rated for his exemplary coverage ability. He is lengthy and sharp in coverage, excelling in man-to-man situations. However, he has displayed a natural instinct for football. This makes him useful in hybrid schemes that employ some zone coverages alongside man-to-man. His instincts, combined with his high-quality ball skills, give him the near-limitless potential to create turnovers for himself and the defense.
Henderson is somewhat of a high-risk, high-reward guy. With his affinity to football comes a tendency to play the quarterback rather than the receiver in man coverage. Currently, although his height and length is attractive, his frame is fairly slight. He isn’t able to bully receivers at the line of scrimmage and control their routes while he keys on the quarterback. Issues with his size also show up in his below-average tackling ability. This was one of the biggest knocks on Henderson coming out of college.
Unlike fellow rookie Jeff Okudah, Henderson’s rookie campaign was not a completely torrid experience. However, a Rookie of the Week performance against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 was a high watermark in a season-curtailed by injury. On and off the injury report, Henderson landed on IR with a groin injury in November and missed the rest of the year. A growing prospect with considerable upside, it is currently unclear why Jacksonville are so quick to move on.
C.J. Henderson’s Fit With Arizona
For all of the issues in Arizona’s cornerback room this off-season, a number one corner isn’t one of them. Malcolm Butler will headline the group in 2021, but depth in the unit is still a real issue. Although he’s having a solid camp, Cardinals fans will find it difficult to rely on Robert Alford‘s health, give his recent injury history. Only a couple of underwhelming free agent signings and a pair of exciting, yet inexperienced young rookies have further bolstered the room so far. The appearance of one of the rookies, Marco Wilson, running reps with the first team gives an indication as to how unclear Arizona’s corner situation really is.
Rumors about Arizona’s interest in Xavien Howard quickly slid over to Henderson on Sunday evening. Although Howard, as one of the league’s best, is clearly the superior of the two players, Henderson actually befits Arizona’s need for a number two cornerback better than Howard, who is an obvious number one. Considering what the Cardinals would have given up for Howard, restructured contract included, Henderson is a far more frugal option.
That’s not to say that Henderson isn’t also an excellent schematic fit. His reputation comes with a proficiency in the man coverage that Vance Joseph’s defense is predicated on. Granted, his skillset may need to be refined to satisfy the level of aggression required in Joseph’s confrontational press technique, but he has a solid base to develop in Arizona’s system. His ability to create turnovers also addresses an area Arizona has lacked in over recent seasons.
How Arizona Can Trade For C.J. Henderson
It has been suggested that Jacksonville would be willing to move Henderson in exchange for a late first-round pick. Others have projected that Henderson’s value would more realistically garner a second-rounder. If the Cardinals are willing to give up the draft capital, then they have that option. However, owing to business around the NFC West, the Cardinals currently have a competitive advantage over their division rivals at the top of the 2022 NFL Draft. Therefore, they may prefer to include some other pieces.
In a perfect world, the Cardinals could trade one seemingly unwanted player for another by sending Jordan Hicks to Jacksonville. However, the Jaguars signed linebacker Joe Schobert this off-season, so Hicks would be surplus to requirements. There are also suggestions that some in the organization would prefer to retain Hicks. In a similar sense, head coach Kliff Kingsbury downplayed rumors that the Cardinals were ready to move on from stalled receiver Andy Isabella. Isabella, a third-year player, could be an attractive makeweight for Jacksonville and their new quarterback as a deep threat. However, he may still have a role in Kingbury’s receiver-heavy system.
It isn’t clear what Arizona might have to give up to pick up the former Florida star, but C.J. Henderson can be successful in Vance Joseph’s defense. A talented player with tonnes of upside and a strong base from which to build, Henderson is at least worth a call to Jacksonville’s front office. In the end, the Cardinals must make an attempt to acquire Henderson prior to the 2021 season.
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