With the lack of preseason and the limited offseason program, there aren’t too many positions that got thrown to the wolves more than cornerback. With brand-new coverage calls and formations to learn and execute, it was likely quite the learning experience for some.
Not all the top-drafted guys got their feet put to the fire, however. Among the first-rounders, Minnesota Vikings corner Jeff Gladney saw nine snaps (four in coverage), Miami Dolphins corner Noah Igbinoghene played 37 (14 in coverage) and Detroit Lions corner Jeffrey Okudah was held out with a hamstring injury. Those three, along with the Jacksonville‘s Chris Claybrooks (10 snaps), Tennessee‘s Kristian Fulton (24 snaps) and Chris Jackson (35 snaps) and Houston‘s John Reid (32 snaps), were held out of these rankings, as they didn’t see quite enough action for us to evaluate them thoroughly.
[Editor's Note: PFF's advanced statistics and player grades are powered by AWS machine learning capabilities.]
Henderson wasn’t simply the best rookie corner of the week; he earned the top overall grade of any starting corner in the league, at 84.2 overall. Known as a man-coverage corner coming out of Florida, the Jaguars let him cook by playing man coverage on 27 of the 62 snaps that Henderson was on the field for. It’s not like Henderson was facing slouches outside, either. He throttled down on two hitch routes for pass breakups against T.Y. Hilton, including the game-ender.
Jags' CJ Henderson was sensational in his NFL debut. pic.twitter.com/A0PLKd8p1S
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) September 13, 2020
Maybe the most exciting thing about his debut, however, was that he wasn’t solely making plays in man coverage. His interception came peeling off the outside receiver on a “special” zone coverage call that fooled Philip Rivers. He also made one heck of a tackle in zone coverage for a third-down stop early in the fourth quarter (0:30 in the clip above).
Tackling, if you’ll remember, was quite easily the biggest knock on Henderson coming out, as he blew 18 tackles on 86 attempts his final two seasons for the Gators. For the day, Henderson allowed five catches from 10 targets for 58 yards, coming away with a pick, four forced incompletions, two stops and no missed tackles on five attempts.