4 Commanders role players entering career-defining seasons in 2024

Chris Rodriguez Jr.
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K.J. Henry - Commanders DE

There was a lot to like about the way K.J. Henry applied himself last season. The defensive end took time to settle and was used sparingly over the first half of 2023. When those in power traded Chase Young and Montez Sweat before the deadline, it propelled the rookie into the limelight.

It was a lot to ask of Henry. He coped well with increased demands in difficult circumstances en route to 1.5 sacks, four tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, and two pressures from 41 percent of the Washington Commanders' defensive snaps. The former fifth-round selection flashed real promise, but a new regime with no emotional attachment means it's time to prove his worth all over again.

Henry was bracing himself for increased competition arriving this offseason. Dorance Armstrong Jr., Clelin Ferrell, and Dante Fowler Jr. joined in free agency. Johnny Newton and Javontae Jean-Baptiste came in via the draft. Efe Obada re-signed on a one-year deal. This raises the stakes for everyone involved.

The veteran arrivals have previous connections to Dan Quinn and Adam Peters, which doesn't help Henry's cause. However, he's young, ascending, and more than capable of building upon his first-year momentum.

The Clemson product has the physical profile normally associated with edge rushers Quinn's had success with previously. He can set the edge against the run, boasts a wide array of pass-rushing moves, and plays with maximum effort. That's a huge positive, but catching the eye during preseason involvement is crucial to his chances of acquiring reps when the real action arrives.

There's a lot at stake for Henry. If he doesn't leap forward, the Commanders will keep him as a rotational player. If the defensive end displays growth and maximizes opportunities when they arrive, those in power could propel him into a starting role long-term.

It's a fine line. It's also a challenge Henry is sure to relish.