Yesterday, the Jets announced that they had traded safety Ronald Martin for rookie long snapper Thomas Hennessy.
The 23-year old Hennessy is listed at 6'2" and 246 pounds and is an undrafted rookie from Duke. He went to high school at Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey.
Hennessy was the 9th best long snapping prospect in the country according to Kohl's when he was recruited to Duke.
He red-shirted his freshman year in 2012, but then took over the long snapper role over the next four seasons, playing in 52 consecutive games.
Hennessy signed with the Colts as an undrafted free agent and played for them in preseason. He was widely expected to win the job during the regular season before yesterday's trade.
Now let's review what Hennessy brings to the table, divided into categories.
Hennessy's workout numbers are not very impressive, although Colts coach Chuck Pagano praised his athleticism and length. Hennessy ran a 5.04 40-yard dash at 246 and posted 15 bench press reps with poor explosiveness and agility numbers in his pro day workout.
Ideally, it would be useful to compare Hennessy's workout numbers with those of the Jets' incumbent long snapper Tanner Purdum, but unfortunately none are available.
Purdum added considerable weight after he finished college anyway and is listed as 270; 24 pounds heavier than Hennessy's pro day weigh-in. That suggests that Hennessy might need to bulk up and add some strength, which might also mean he's a year away from being able to contribute at this level.
Instead, if you compare his numbers with those of Charley Hughlett, the NFL's highest paid long snapper, you'll find that Hughlett has superior numbers in every category, but most of them are close.
While it's becoming less common for long snappers to play dual roles, many start off at other positions, such as Zak DeOssie of the Giants who entered the league as a linebacker or former Jets Dalton Freeman and Braedon Bowman, who were both capable of long snapping in addition to their primary position. Former Jet James Dearth even caught a touchdown pass in a back-up tight end role. Current Jets tight end Jason Vander Laan also trained as a long snapper.
In Hennessy's case, he's a pure long snapper. That's the only position he's played in college and was his primary role in high school, although he did play briefly on the offensive line. Ironically, his replacement with the Colts is Luke Rhodes, who was competing at inside linebacker until recently.
Hennessy is regarded as an extremely reliable snapper with coaches at both the pro and collegiate level praising his accuracy and velocity.
He claims to have had zero bad snaps or almost-bad snaps in college and certainly hasn't had any high-profile disasters with only a couple that would be considered inaccurate.
He generally gets the ball back quickly and accurately, but this was a rare lapse:
With the Colts, he just had one bad snap in preseason action so far - a low snap on a punt in the Lions game that ultimately netted just 26 yards. It's worth noting that Tanner Purdum has had two or three bad snaps so far in preseason, including one that led to a horrible Lac Edwards shank.
The Blue Devils had a few kicks blocked while Hennessy was snapping for them, but the pressure always came off the edge and the blocks weren't attributable to bad snaps.
He may need to adjust to the larger threat of interior pressure and different blocking schemes at the NFL level. As noted, he did play sparingly on the offensive line in high school.
Purdum doesn't contribute much as a tackler, but Hennessy has shown some abilities in this area with four career tackles at Duke and one already in preseason action with the Colts.
On this play, he runs wide but is still the second player to get to the return man and trips him up:
However, here's a similar tackle attempt where he missed the tackle:
Ultimately, it doesn't seem like Hennessy brings particularly good technique, but he does a decent job of getting down the field and in front of the return man.
Here's another one. On this play he comes up the middle to make a low tackle as the return man tries to break to the outside:
Hennessy was self-taught and managed to get himself a scholarship at Duke by working hard on his technique. Coaches have also praised his hard work in the weight room and his coachability.
He earned two degrees while at Duke.
As noted, Hennessy played in 52 straight games in college, so durability appears to be one of his strengths.
This was an interesting move for the Jets and Thursday night's game could go a long way towards clarifying their thinking.
Initial talk has been that Hennessy is a candidate to replace Purdum, who has reportedly struggled in camp as well as having a few blips in preseason. Earlier in the offseason, Hennessy was considered a lock to make the Colts' roster, but the emergence of Rhodes obviously left them comfortable enough to cash him in for some safety depth.
It's possible that Purdum is banged-up so the team has brought Hennessy in as cover so they can rest him for opening day, but it seems unlikely. Thursday's game is so unimportant, they'd probably just get a guy in off the street rather than trade someone away, even if that player was likely to be released anyway.
One major factor in getting Hennessy might be the fact that he was Ross Martin's long snapper at Duke. It would seem to be a good sign for Martin's chances of winning the placekicking job if the Jets hand-selected Hennessy to snap for him.
Hennessy is obviously younger than Purdum but the assumption that there would be a worthwhile cap saving attached to giving him the job is misguided. While Purdum's salary of almost $1 million is considerably higher than Hennessy's minimum salary deal, he has over $400K of guarantees, which means the dead money if Purdum is released would wipe out most of any potential saving.
As noted, Hennessy might benefit from having a year in an NFL weights program before he actually becomes a full-time contributor. He might therefore be a candidate for the practice squad, although the team would be wary of developing him all year only for another team to poach him for their active roster as the year is coming to an end.
More likely; Hennessy gets an audition on Thursday night and then the Jets will weigh up if they're comfortable with him taking over and perhaps establishing himself as the guy for the next several seasons.
We'll be back to take an in-depth look at Armagedon Draughn tomorrow.