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Willie Henry Among Ravens' Emerging Young Defenders

Posted Nov 21, 2017

Defensive tackle Willie Henry logged two sacks Sunday in Green Bay. Head Coach John Harbaugh said Henry 'really established himself as a physical player.'

Defensive tackle Willie Henry gave rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey an assist with his first-career interception Sunday in Green Bay.

Late in the fourth quarter, after an already dominant game in which he logged two sacks, Henry blew through his blocker, perfectly taking advantage of his edge, and thumped Packers quarterback Brett Hundley as he frantically threw from his own end zone.

The errant pass came nowhere near its intended target and Humphrey jumped in front to haul it in.

It doesn’t show up in the stat sheet like his sacks, but it was another example of how effective Henry is becoming this season.

“He has a lot of talent, he’s playing really hard, and it’s coming together for him,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said.

Henry got the starting nod at defensive end. After Brent Urban went down with a season-ending foot injury in Week 3, the Ravens first tried Bronson Kaufusi and then went to rookie third-round pick Chris Wormley. Both Kaufusi and Wormley were healthy scratches in Green Bay, as the Ravens relied on Henry to get the job done.

That could have been game-specific. The Ravens likely expected the Packers to be more pass-heavy considering their top two running backs were injured. Baltimore also wanted more speed on the field considering Hundley is quite mobile. Henry, who has a knack for getting penetration, fit the bill best.

But it’s also an indication of the Ravens’ growing confidence in the second-year player and 2016 fourth-round pick out of Michigan, who hardly saw the field last season.

“He’s just more consistent with his technique,” Harbaugh said. “He has really established himself as a physical player; he’s getting his hands and his feet where they’re supposed to be against the various blocks. That’s not easy to do, because you see a lot of blocking schemes against some really good blockers in the course of the game.”

Henry’s first sack came on a pivotal fourth-and-6 near midfield on the Packers’ first drive of the third quarter. Hundley rolled right and Henry slipped by his blocker, then fought through a shoulder block of another lineman before hitting Hundley just as Matthew Judon also closed in.

His second sack came on the Packers’ first drive of the fourth quarter. This time, Henry pushed his way through the center’s outside shoulder and got to Hundley after he pumped the ball once and tried to escape the pocket.

Henry’s five tackles overall were the fourth-most on the team Sunday, and he got the second-highest defensive grade from Pro Football Focus, only trailing Judon, who also had a pair of sacks.

Henry, Judon, Humphrey, linebacker Patrick Onwuasor, defensive tackle Michael Pierce and rookie outside linebackers Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser all had strong games in Green Bay. All in their first or second seasons, they’re showing that Baltimore has a strong, young pipeline of defensive talent.

“It is good to see guys you had hopes for. Those are young guys that we drafted that are practicing and developing,” Harbaugh said.

“Yet, at the same time, you forge ahead. There is no reading the press clippings. Those guys have to play better next week, and the opponent is going to know them more. The opponent will be more aware of those players in the future than they have been in the past, and they are going to have to step up their game accordingly.”

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