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Trey Hendrickson could play expanded role for New Orleans Saints

'I try to bring a bit of consistency, and a little bit of an edge, too'

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Trey Hendrickson played 12 regular-season and two playoff games last season, didn't start any of them and didn't log an eye-catching number of snaps.

But the defensive end made an impression then, and he continues to do so now, in his second training camp as a New Orleans Saint.

"He's got a good grasp as to what we're doing," Coach Sean Payton said. "He's stronger. Fortunately, right now he's healthy. You feel him.

"There's a presence to him and I think in his second year now, knowing what we're doing, we've seen some really good things in practice. Hopefully, that can continue, but he has played well."

"You feel him" is Payton's way of saying that Hendrickson has a knack for forcing his way into the action.

The former third-round pick in 2017 has the ability to play all along the defensive line, and might be asked to do so this season. But right now, as the Saints prepare to enter their second preseason game – the home preseason opener Friday night against Arizona in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome – he may most be needed at right defensive end, where Alex Okafor is returning from a ruptured Achilles last season and rookie Marcus Davenport has been slowed by an injury in training camp.

Hendrickson managed to create and maintain a space for himself last year in the defensive line rotation and had two sacks, a forced fumble, two passes defensed and 13 tackles during the regular season.

A willingness to mix it up has been beneficial to him.

"I try to bring a bit of consistency, and a little bit of an edge, too," Hendrickson said. "It's just part of the way I play and that competitiveness just comes out on the field."

It's a characteristic that the Saints saw in Hendrickson when he was at Florida Atlantic – where he finished with a school-record 29.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles, and blocked a nation-leading four kicks as a senior – and one they hoped to capitalize on.

"You saw toughness with the player, and that's a great trait," Payton said. "There's a physical presence to him. It's not necessarily the feistiness, it's how a player plays between the whistles.

"Can he defend the run? Can he affect the passer? Do we consider him a pressure player or not? What are the things that we think he does very well, and then, let's try to do those things. So I think in year 2, he's a guy that's in the mix definitely for playing."

That, of course, is what Hendrickson wants. And it's what he appears to be progressing toward as the Saints draw closer to the regular season.

"I have a great coach in (defensive line coach) Ryan Nielsen who prepares me really well for anything," he said. "I'm just trying to absorb as much information and be coachable to get the job done on Sundays."

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