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Daiyan Henley Chargers

Daiyan Henley Should Make Instant Impact For Chargers

  • Justin Melo
  • May 4, 2023
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The Los Angeles Chargers made one of the smartest value selections in the 2023 NFL Draft when they picked former Washington State linebacker Daiyan Henley in the third round. Henley projects as an immediate contributor in Brandon Staley’s defense. The Chargers must improve their overall defensive metrics and Henley is the ideal candidate to help them achieve just that.

Staley’s defense did not meet expectations in 2022. The Chargers allowed a 28th-ranked 145.8 rushing yards per contest, and a 21st-ranked 22.6 points per game. Staley relieved defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill of his duties at the conclusion of the season, and replaced him by promoting in-house candidate Derrick Ansley.

New acquisitions such as Henley and Tuli Tuipulotu are expected to help improve a new-look group. Henley could replace inside linebacker Drue Tranquill, who departed for an opportunity with their rival Kansas City Chiefs. Troy Reeder and Kyle Van Noy are two additional linebackers that won’t be back in 2023.

The Chargers did sign Eric Kendricks in free agency. Kendricks is guaranteed a starting role after signing a two-year contract worth $13.2 million. Henley could push Kenneth Murray Jr. for playing time opposite Kendricks.

Kendricks was a savvy veteran addition, but he’s not an ideal candidate to play coverage in third-and-obvious situations. Kendricks struggled mightily in coverage last season, having allowed 77.0% of the targets thrown his way (67-of-87) to be converted into receptions. Kendricks joined the Chargers to help them solve last season’s run defense woes.

Tranquill was the Chargers’ best coverage linebacker last season. Tranquill was stingy in coverage, having allowed less-than-a-chain-moving 9.6 yards per reception. Tranquill only allowed two touchdowns all season, and he matched that total with two interceptions en route to earning a coverage grade of 76.7 from Pro Football Focus.

Murray also had success in coverage. Opposing quarterbacks saw a passer rating of 94.5 when targeting Murray, per PFF. But Murray’s future with the Chargers hangs in the balance, and Henley may have been drafted as his eventual replacement.

Chargers general manager Tom Telesco declined the fifth-year option on Murray’s contract. It means Murray is entering a fate-deciding campaign in 2023. Murray was also a massive liability against the run last season. Drafting Henley may have already sealed Murray’s fate.

And Henley is more than ready to become the Chargers’ go-to linebacker in coverage. Henley showcased an outstanding ability to defend the pass at this year’s Senior Bowl. Henley routinely won his one-versus-one reps by mirroring his target’s movements. A former wide receiver, Henley has elite route recognition skills. As an athlete, Henley changes direction flawlessly to stay within the hip pocket of his assignment. Henley provides Staley with another rangy, athletic presence at the second level.

Henley was extremely productive for the Cougars in 2022. Henley recorded career-highs in tackles (106), tackles for loss (12.0), sacks (4.0) and forced fumbles (three) en route to earning First-Team All-Pac 12 honors. An ascending talent, Henley appears ready to play on Sunday’s.

The Chargers need defensive assistance in critical areas. Roster overturn has guaranteed change at linebacker. Henley fits the mold as Murray’s like-for-like replacement. Staley should start working Henley into his defensive game plans immediately.

Written By

Justin Melo