There weren’t many bright spots on the 2020 Jacksonville Jaguars team. A 1-15 team that rotated a trio of quarterbacks and lost most of their defensive starters to injury, little went right for the club. Now with new Head Coach Urban Meyer preparing a roster for his first season in the NFL, he’s evaluating each and every position group and player.
One player who caught his attention right away is corner CJ Henderson, the Jaguars first-round (No. 9 overall) pick from the 2020 NFL Draft.
“My gosh, is he talented,” exclaimed Meyer of Henderson to local media on Tuesday.
Henderson had arguably one of the best rookie debuts in club history, with three pass breakups and an interception while allowing future Hall of Fame Philip Rivers only a 28.3 passer rating when throwing towards Henderson.
Save a Week 3 loss versus the Miami Dolphins—which what was an abysmal game for every Jaguars player—Henderson never finished with a failing grade in pass coverage according to PFF. His six pass breakups were second on the team, even while playing only eight games.
In total, Henderson finished with 36 tackles, six passes defended, one forced fumble and one interception, albeit while giving up four touchdowns. Injury meant Henderson only played in eight games and Meyer revealed on Tuesday that Henderson was recovering from surgery.
“He did have labrum surgery by the way, and everything came out fine. He’s actually in here rehabbing today, so we’re counting on him.”
They’ll be counting on Henderson in a number of ways; as a corner and to become a “corner”stone (pun intended) of what Meyer wants to build on the defense. That entire side of the ball has areas of weakness, and they’ll be addressed from front to back, explains the coach.
“You look at a defense that really struggled in a lot of areas and I always believe you build your team around the defensive line and you move backwards, so that’s what we’re going to do. Our defensive line, we feel good about it, a few of our players are pretty good.
“The defensive line will be solidified first and then we move to the back of the defense and our defensive secondary needs to be revamped in a few spots.”
With DJ Hayden injured in the first quarter of the season, Tre Herndon moved inside to nickel, leaving Henderson to be joined at corner by free agent signing Sidney Jones IV. Then fellow rookies Luq Barcoo and Chris Claybrooks took over as injuries decimated the defense. At safety, the Jaguars found themselves relying on depth players and young talent thanks partly to injuries and partly to ill-structuring of the unit.
But Henderson, one of the more consistent producers in the secondary last season, won’t likely be a “revamped” spot. There’s too much to like, raising his ceiling and making Urban Meyer excited about the future for this first-round pick…even if he’s one of the few bright and sure spots currently for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"I know Dan Mullen very well who’s coached him in college,” said Meyer of the Florida Gators head coach.
“[CJ’s] an integral part of this. Obviously, you spend a high draft pick on him and [he’s] a wonderful young man that dealt with some injury situations and missed some games near the end of the season.
The other spots, we’re still evaluating what you have and what’s available and that’s a big part of where we’re at right now.”