Wednesday, November 02, 2005

DQ is great, but he's no EJ

If you forced me to pick one player who most represented the ascendancy of the Maryland football program from the ashes of the Duffner and Vanderlinden era it would be linebacker E.J. Henderson. He was the best player on those great Maryland teams from 2001-3. Now don't misunderstand that I feel Maryland had many excellent players on those teams but none had the impact of Henderson. Week to week you could always count on Henderson making big plays and keeping Maryland winning. He had a jaw dropping performance against Tennessee in the 2003 Peach bowl to end his college career. He was the ACC Player of the Year(only the third Terrapin to ever receive this honor), Defensive Player of the Year and consensus first team All American. He won the Butkus(best linebacker) and Bednarik(best defensive player) awards after his senior season in 2002.

The comparisons between Henderson and the current middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson are inevitable. The middle linebacker or "mike" position in Maryland's defense is the star of the unit. All the action goes through that player and he is in the position to make lots of tackles. Some suggested earlier this year that Jackson was an even better linebacker than Henderson. Jackson is an excellent linebacker and is a finalist for several national awards this season but he isn't in the same class as Henderson.

Henderson had an uncanny knack for making a big play or a critical tackle. His instincts at the position were sensational and he could anticipate the offense like few at his position. This helped him compensate for mediocre speed. He was strong enough to take on most offensive linemen if needed and was a very good blitzer from the MLB spot. He was a little stiff in pass coverage but when you have someone who is a difference maker using him in pass coverage isn't utilizing his skills.

Jackson is like a tackling machine. He rarely gets himself out of position or misses a tackle. He has good speed and sideline to sideline range. His good agility and speed allows him to be a decent coverage linebacker. His smaller size sometimes allows him to be swallowed up by blockers and limits his blitzing ability. He doesn't posses the flare for the big play like Henderson, although he also possesses fantastic instincts like Henderson.

Both have excellent leadership quality but in a quiet way, though this season Jackson has become more vocal.





As the tables make clear while both are excellent linebackers Henderson has a huge advantage in tackles for loss. I would also argue that the quality of the teammates that Jackson has had on defense has been superior to Henderson's teams. Jackson is a great linebacker and it will be impossible to replace him but he shouldn't be considered better than Henderson.

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