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The clearest path for a Cincinnati Bengals player to get a game ball from head coach Zac Taylor after a win is to create a turnover during the game. Nearly every time a defensive player has forced a turnover in a Bengals win, Taylor has rewarded him in the postgame locker room.
After the Bengals beat the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson got a game ball since he strip-sacked Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the second half. Through 11 games, Hendrickson ranks sixth in the NFL with 10.5 sacks.
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But Hendrickson’s sack total, his forced fumbles and his number of game balls don’t capture his impact. Six different times this season, Hendrickson has set up a turnover for one of his teammates with the impact he has as a pass rusher.
“When you’re relentless like that on every single play and the tackle can’t ever take a break, you’re going to have a lot of this turnover production,” Taylor said.
With the way he creates pressure, Hendrickson has played a role in six of the Bengals 10 interceptions this season.
Hendrickson has pressured the opposing team’s quarterback more often per game than all but one Bengals defensive lineman this season. The more Hendrickson pressures the quarterback, the more quick decisions that quarterback has to process.
Because of Hendrickson, opposing quarterbacks make a more aggressive throw or miss a Bengals linebacker in the middle of the field.
“There’s not a lot of space for the quarterback to operate, so your edge rushers can take advantage of that,” Taylor said. “Trey has won a lot of different ways. He has won around the edge, won with up-and-unders and won going through the tackles.”
It’s been a straight-forward formula for those six interceptions that Hendrickson assisted on. Hendrickson disrupts the pocket, the quarterback rushes to get rid of the ball and the Bengals get the interception.
“If (the Bengals cornerbacks) have good coverage, we get sacks,” Hendrickson said. “If we have a good rush, they get interceptions. It’s complementary football. We trust our guys in the back end. We know if we make the throw a little off that they’ll come up with that pick.”
Early in the season, Bengals safety Jessie Bates III spoke with Hendrickson and the other defensive backs during a game. Hendrickson had 2.5 sacks in the Bengals first three games, and Bates joked that Hendrickson could have let the quarterback get rid of the ball a few more times to give the secondary more shots at interceptions.
“Every play, you see him,” Bates said. “Every single play, he’ll bull rush the tackle into the quarterback. Quarterbacks are starting to see Trey, (Sam Hubbard) and our guys up front get after them. It’s turning into interceptions.”
The win over the Steelers was Hendrickson’s best game of the season at creating turnovers for his teammates. On Bengals cornerback Eli Apple’s interception in the first quarter, Hendrickson lined up against the left tackle. Hendrickson locked his arms into Steelers left tackle Dan Moore Jr.’s shoulders, shoved Moore Jr. to the side and forced Roethlisberger to make a throw.
Then before halftime, Hendrickson bumped the Steelers right guard into Roethlisberger’s arm as he threw the ball. Following a slow throw, Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton had the chance to cut off the passing lane and intercept the pass.
“He’s relentless and I would say he’s a really good technician, especially with his hands and how he uses his hands,” Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said. “He sets people up with different types of rushes. He’s smart in how he goes about it.”
INJURY UPDATES: Bengals right tackle Riley Reiff and running back Chris Evans both left the Bengals win over the Steelers with ankle injuries. Taylor said Reiff and Evans would be limited during the week, but neither injury appeared to be a major setback.
Bengals tight end Thaddeus Moss injured his hamstring during pregame warmups, and Taylor said Moss’ injury was the most significant of the three.
BIG AWARD: Following a career game by Bengals running back Joe Mixon, Mixon was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week. Against the Steelers last week, Mixon rushed for a career-high 165 yards in the win.
“I think 'rhythm' is a really good word to use there, just because you can feel when (we’re) in a flow,” Taylor said. “It's really good to see at this point in the season. You hit your stride and it's pretty effective. Once you get that ground game going, it can be demoralizing for the other team.”
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Trey Hendrickson: How the Cincinnati Bengals DE creates interceptions