He held his own against the New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul on Sunday night in the Hall of Fame game, despite allowing the 2011 All-Pro to bat down an EJ Manuel pass at the line of scrimmage (some of the blame should fall on Manuel for staring down his receivers). Henderson also cleared the way for some long runs off the left side, allowing the Bills to show off their deep stable of running backs.
Let's not put him in the Hall of Fame just yet, though. Bills head coach Doug Marrone certainly didn't do that when he said that Henderson has "a lot of work ahead of [him]" and added that Henderson left the game early because he was "sweating a lot." The only reason Henderson is getting the opportunity in the first place is because starting left tackle Cordy Glenn has been out with a mystery illness.
For the record: Seantrel Henderson has been decent tonight, but the moment Cordy Glenn returns to the #Bills, he's the starting LT.— Chris Trapasso (@ChrisTrapasso) August 4, 2014
The coaches know they have to keep expectations in check for Henderson. It's their best bet of keeping him motivated to push himself and become the Pro Bowl talent he has the potential to be.
"He's a talented guy," Bills general manager Doug Whaley said on the John Murphy Show in July (via Syracuse.com). "We feel that, again, if he didn't have those demons, he would have been probably in the first round."
"If you want to draw up a first-round offensive tackle, this is the kid," said NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock when the Bills made the selection. "Offensive line coaches want to coach him. But there's a downside. There is all kinds of negative off-the-field issues. Because of all the issues off the field, he took himself from being a first-round pick to being a seventh-round pick."
Henderson's 6'7", 331-pound frame and 34.625-inch arms all scream "NFL left tackle." After failing his drug test at the 2014 scouting combine and leaving early during Miami's pro day, NFL scouts were screaming "stay away."
Henderson showed off those first-round traits when he stymied Pierre-Paul in pass protection. The extra time in the pocket allowed Manuel to go through his progressions and get the ball to an open receiver—in this case, tight end Lee Smith, who had settled down in a soft spot in coverage.
Pierre-Paul is known for his long arms and overall long frame, yet he could not get a good rush on Henderson, who kept him at bay by extending his arms into JPP's chest.
Manuel needs to get better at going through his progressions more quickly on a more consistent basis, but with pass protection like this, he can feel comfortable that he will have enough time to do so.
Henderson also fended off JPP on running back Fred Jackson's seven-yard rush off the left side. By holding his ground at the point of attack, he allowed Jackson to continue following the wall of offensive linemen. Then, by getting out to the second level, Henderson made sure that the linebacker didn't get there first.
Clearly the potential is there. The question is: How much of an opportunity will Henderson have to truly showcase that potential, and to build on it? As mentioned earlier, the starting job at left tackle belongs to Cordy Glenn as soon as he returns to action.
That being said, the starting spot at right tackle also appears to be up for grabs, with Cyrus Kouandjio and Erik Pears competing for the right to that spot.
To this point, however, Kouandjio "has not been the player the team was expecting when they selected him in the second round" of May's draft, according to Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 Buffalo. Perhaps when Glenn returns, the Bills could move Henderson to the right tackle spot and see how he performs on the other side of the offensive line.
Based on what I saw last night, Seantrel Henderson is going to legit beat out Cyrus Koundjio. Which is really interesting.— Ian Kenyon (@IanKenyonNFL) August 4, 2014
The talent is there, and as long as he continues to show the right attitude, the Bills will probably give him every chance to succeed.
"We've talked to Seantrel and he knows that he's got one shot," Whaley told ESPN, via ProFootballTalk. "We're saying we'll give you this one shot. It has nothing to do with us saying this guy is a talented football player; he's been dealing with some demons. Hopefully those demons are out of his life and why not give somebody—this is America—give somebody a chance."
NFL teams are never shy about giving those second chances in a low-risk, high-reward scenario. So far, Henderson has maximized his "one shot," and if he continues on this trajectory, that's all he may need.
Unless otherwise noted, quotes obtained via team news release.