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Defensive end Trey Hendrickson blossoming for New Orleans Saints this season

Has team-leading three sacks after four games

See the best moments from the Saints defense in the Week 1 match up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
See the best moments from the Saints defense in the Week 1 match up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

There's a reasonable probability that Trey Hendrickson is relishing the moment. In fact, it's likely better than reasonable, especially when you witness the jubilation he displays when he's making a play.

But that's about the extent of the outward display.

The defensive end who leads the New Orleans Saints in sacks (three), tackles for loss (three) and quarterback hits (seven) leaves the tooting on the field, where the four-year veteran – a member of the Saints' vaunted 2017 draft class – has produced a strong start for the second straight season.

Last year, Hendrickson had three sacks, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and three quarterback hits in the first three games, accounting for the majority of his 13-game production (4.5 sacks, four tackles for loss, nine quarterback hits and the one forced fumble).

And like last season, Hendrickson prefers to move in relative quiet as the Saints (2-2) prepare to play the Los Angeles Chargers (1-3) on Monday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, with a chance to climb back into a tie for first place in the NFC South Division.

"Oh, well, I am a blessed man for the statistics," Hendrickson said. "But I have never really played for statistics. I love playing football. I love striking blocks and getting after quarterbacks."

It has required work for Hendrickson, listed at 6 feet 4, 270 pounds, to get to this point.

Injuries have cost him more than a full season – three games as a rookie, then 11 more in 2018, and another three last year. But with defensive end Marcus Davenport sidelined for the first four games, Hendrickson's role and presence increased in the defensive line rotation.

"I think he's at the perfect weight and strength," Coach Sean Payton said. "And look, he is a tremendous worker. He got down – his weight fluctuated in his second year – but I think he's at his perfect weight, I think he's a smart player and one of his great traits is his energy and effort. That takes a lot to rush, to play defensive line. We've got, we feel, a good rotation. But I think there's a toughness about him also."

Davenport possibly will return for Monday's game, and Hendrickson said the unit will welcome him back.

"He's a great friend, for one," Hendrickson said. "And, for two, he's a great competitor. And adding another one of those tools to our D-line can do nothing but get us stronger as a unit and raise the level of expectation a little higher.

"So I'm excited to get back to competing with him and getting after quarterbacks with him."

Through four games, a healthy Hendrickson is doing that as well as he has at any time in his NFL career.

"Well, I've always kept tapping the rock," he said. "And I've overcome injuries since I've been here and all these kind of things. So building off every year is always a goal. So I always strive to get better."

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