It has been said almost too many times at this point, but the Baltimore Ravens have a lot of competition at training camp this year. As a result, a large group of Ravens are finding themselves on the bubble of making or missing the 53 man roster. One of those players is rookie defensive lineman Willie Henry.
Henry, a defensive tackle of out of Michigan, was one of the Ravens five fourth-round draft picks 2016. Let’s look at his combine stats via Pro Football Focus:
DL Willie Henry:
- Height: 6-3
- Weight: 303
- Arm length: 33 ⅜ inches
- Hand size: 10 ⅞ inches
- Bench: 28
- 40-yard dash: 5.00 seconds
- Vertical jump: 30.5 inches
- Broad jump: 9-2 inches
- 3-cone drill: 7.57 seconds
- 20-yard shuttle: 4.53 seconds
For a defensive tackle, those are pretty good numbers. Henry has always been regarded as a great athlete. In his final year at Michigan, Henry amassed 34 tackles and 6.5 sacks. Henry keeps his pads low and gets after the quarterback. Michigan moved him around at both the defensive tackle and end spots, as he has the speed and versatility to do so. Oh yeah, and Henry played under Jim Harbaugh.
While only for a year, Henry got to play under a coach from the most elite coaching family in football. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh knows that he is getting exactly the kind of player that he likes to have, following being mentored by Jim. Henry could very well be the start of a Michigan to Baltimore pipeline. But how does Henry fit in Baltimore?
First, Michigan defensive coordinator, and now Maryland head coach, D.J. Durkin, ran a 4-3 defense in Ann Arbor. Henry will have to learn the Ravens 3-4 scheme. But Henry’s run defense needs work. He often gets swallowed up by blockers, creating holes for running backs to dash through. He is able to make up for his flaws in the run game, however, with his ability to pressure the quarterback. Lance Zierlein writes,
Ravens nose tackle Brandon Williams, barring injury, will be the starter at the position come Week 1. Fellow lineman Timmy Jernigan will likely start at one of the end positions on the Ravens three-man front, while Lawrence Guy will likely be the starter on the other side.
The role Henry is most likely to challenge for his Jernigan’s. Jernigan and Henry had very similar combine stats. Both are quick and agile for their size. However, Jernigan is a natural nose tackle, who was forced to an end spot as Williams is the entrenched guy in the middle. Henry provides a better pass rushing ability than Jernigan, while Jernigan is better against the run.
Henry will need time to develop into a starting caliber player. Luckily, he isn’t likely to start this season anyway. Henry will get to develop behind Williams and Jernigan. If the Ravens are unable to retain Williams this offseason, (Ozzie, please don’t let this happen), Jernigan will likely move to the nose tackle spot, and the Ravens will want to put Henry in Jernigan’s spot.
A year of development with some playing time could help smooth that transition, but obviously that is a worst case scenario. Henry's ceiling for this year is a third down pass rusher. But the Ravens need depth along the defensive line, and Henry, while raw, can provide that.
Verdict: Makes the 53