In a game in which the Jacksonville Jaguars badly needed rookie cornerback and No. 9 overall pick CJ Henderson to make his presence known, the Jaguars got even more than they were likely even hoping for from their top pick.
Thanks to Henderson's dominating performance in Jacksonville's 27-20 Week 1 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, Henderson has been awarded the Pepsi Zero Sugar NFL Rookie of Week 1 award. This is the same rookie of the week award Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew won seven times last season. Now, it is Henderson's own turn to create a streak of rookie awards.
Henderson had one of the best rookie debuts in not just the NFL this season, but in Jaguars' history, recording three pass breakups and an interception on 10 targets.
According to the Jaguars, Henderson became the third player in NFL history to post at least five tackles, three passes defensed and an INT in their NFL debut, joining CBs Marcus Peters (Sept. 13, 2015) and Denzel Ward (Sept. 9, 2018). Henderson became the fifth Jaguars rookie in franchise history to register an INT on Kickoff Weekend and the first since CB Derek Cox in 2009. Among those passes defensed was the game-clinching pass breakup on fourth-down against T.Y. Hilton on the Colts' final possession.
“He’s a physical player. When we did him coming out, we knew he was a willing tackler," Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash said Thursday.
"But you’ve seen some plays where he’s willing to come up and hit some people, [like] that third down stop where he came up and knifed the guy short of the goal line. You don’t see a lot of corners really wanting to throw their body around like CJ [Henderson] did on Sunday, so that was obviously really good to see about how physical he is in the run game and how he can tackle. But the stuff that really popped off the tape is how he’s willing to transition, mirror, and play the ball when it’s in the air. You never see the young man panic and that’s a credit to him and the mindset and the confidence he has in his ability.”
Henderson entered his rookie season with big expectations after the Jaguars essentially picked him to replace former Pro Bowl and All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, and so far Henderson has done more than enough to meet those expectations.
“He’s far from satisfied. I know in his mind, he didn’t play as well as he could’ve, which is exactly what we want to hear as a coaching staff," Wash said.
"He’s been pushing himself all week just like it’s any other week. I don’t think he’s the one that’s going to, to quote an old-timer, be allergic to the big meal. I think it’s going to be a situation where he’s going to continue to improve and he’s got a lot of drive in it.”