Broncos Practice Report: Rookie Matt Henningsen ‘is doing everything right’
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When you average one legitimate QB pressure every 7 pass plays, as Matt Henningsen did in Saturday’s preseason opener, you’re doing well. And after showing the same kind of disruptive tendencies that he demonstrated in practice, the performance affirmed that the sixth-round pick has game.
His pressure after surging through a gap in Cowboys protection led to P.J. Locke’s first-quarter interception. He decked Cowboys QB Cooper Rush as he threw. He did exactly what you hope a player would do: He took advantage of a gap.
“It was honestly a mistake in their protection,” Henningsen said. “The center slid away from me and the guard didn’t smash down, so they let a wide-open A-gap for me to run through, and then a hit and a pick.”
But he was left lamenting the sack that got away later in the game.
Yes, pressure matters, and he did disrupt Dallas QB Ben DiNucci in the final moments to set up a Jonathan Kongbo sack. But you’ve got to finish.
“He just has to take advantage of some of his opportunities,” Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said. “We have been giving him a hard time for that because he had some great opportunities in the game to get a couple of sacks.”
The good thing for Henningsen is this: He knows it.
“I’ve got to get those,” he said. “That’s a missed opportunity on a big play. That’s something I can definitely improve on — just how to sack a quarterback in the NFL, because it’s a different technique than in college.
“Obviously, you have so many more rules protecting the quarterback, and things like that. You can’t go high; you can’t go low. You’ve got to go in the perfect spot. I was obviously a little bit too high on that one, so, I’ll have to work on that in practice.”
Still, Henningsen’s ability to put himself in position shows how far he has come since a rookie-minicamp calf injury torpedoed his offseason.
And once training camp arrived, it wasn’t until full pads went on that Henningsen was able to display the kind of energy and disruptiveness that landed him on the Broncos’ draft radar.
“That’s when it all started to click for me,” he said. “And that’s when I thrived.”
That bore itself out in what he felt he did well Saturday: “Exploding off the ball at the line of scrimmage.
“But I think I need to improve on having my eyes in the right spot and finishing plays,” Henningsen continued. “So, making sure that I have my eyes in my gap so I can go play the ball rather than playing the man, and then, obviously, finishing those big plays.”
And if he can do that, a roster spot could be his.
“He’s doing everything right,” Hackett said. “He’s a really smart player, and he’s put himself in the right positions. Now he’s just going to have to be able to finish it to take it to that next level.”
- Practice took place at a jog-through tempo.
- Edge rusher Randy Gregory took part in team-period repetitions, two days after practicing for the first time this season. “That’s another reason why these days are so great because a guy like that, that’s working back in, gets 50 reps right there,” Hackett said. “Not necessarily a walk-through, not necessarily at full speed, but at a nice tempo to get that. He’s just happy to be out there and playing football. That’s what he loves, and he brings so much juice.”
- Center Lloyd Cushenberry did not practice because of what Hackett said was a knee issue. “So, it’s one of those things where we’re just resting him to make sure that he’s good,” Hackett said. “It’s nothing serious.”
- Center Luke Wattenberg (ankle), tight end Greg Dulcich (hamstring), inside linebacker Jonas Griffith (elbow dislocation), wide receiver KJ Hamler (knee/hip) all remained sidelined.
- Right tackle Billy Turner was excused from practice. Turner had “some personal things” to which he needed to attend, Hackett said.