GLENDALE AZ - AUGUST 14: Runningback Chris Henry #27 of the Houston Texans rushes the ball past Hamza Abdullah #41 of the Arizona Cardinals during preseason NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on August 14 2010 in Glendale Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Texans 19-16. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
For those of you that are unfamiliar with the Seahawks' fourth string running back Chris Henry, I wanted to offer a little information on the subject. Because fourth-string players are people too.
For starters, Henry was a 2nd round (50th overall) pick out of Arizona in 2007, and spent most of the season last year on the Seahawks practice squad. He was drafted so high in 2007 mainly because he showed impressive athleticism at the Combine (which he was barely invited to in the first place, after an innocuous college career, only rushing 255 times for 859 yards and 8 TDs in his 3 year stint there). At 6'0, 230, He ran the 40 in 4.4 seconds, which tied him for first in the running backs group, and finished in the top 5 in almost every category: 4.14 short shuttle (3rd), a 11.51 long shuttle (2nd), a 6.96 three cone (5th), a 10′7″ broad jump (1st -T). He's got good quickness, evidenced by his 10 yrd split of 1.51 sec during his 40, second for all running backs and better than that one guy Adrian Peterson.
This impressive performance created a lot of buzz for the Arizona product, and he ended up being picked in the early 2nd round by the Tennesee Titans. In his rookie campaign, he rushed for 119 yrds and 2 TDs on 31 carries, but then played in just one game in 2008, and just 3 in 2009. He was buried in the depth chart behind Chris Johnson and LenDale White though, and he was waived during the '09 season. He was picked up by the Texans for their practice squad to finish the year.
At the beginning of the 2010 season, though, while at camp with the Houston Texans, he was creating some buzz again by challenging for a roster spot. Houston's coach, Gary Kubiak, when asked who he was excited about watching in their first preseason matchup, picked out Henry:
"I'm excited to see Chris Henry. Obviously, he's had a good camp. I'm excited to see him. We've got to orchestrate the running back situation because there is no way you could play five, but he's definitely going to play in this game. I just like his strength and motor, he could go all day. He's a well-conditioned and very physical player. I expect him to show up on special teams recovering kicks and those types of things for (special teams coach) Joe (Marciano).
I just like the way he's worked. He has a great opportunity on this team to get out there and play. I'm interested to see how he'll play for Joe, too. He'll be very involved in special teams."
Unfortunately for Henry, he was weeded out of the final 53 before the beginning of the season. He was playing behind the likes of Arian Foster (NFL Rushing Champion in '10), Steve Slaton, Derrick Ward, two proven veterans, and Vonta Leach, an All-Pro fullback. After being cut, the Hawks added him to their practice squad and he's been with the team since. He has learned from his time on practice squads, and is still focused. It appears he's matured and knows what he has to do to catch on with a team:
"I didn't start my career practicing as well as I do now. It's something that's developed. I believe if I want to get better, I have to practice hard."
Chris Henry, though raw, has tremendous athleticism and potential (still only 25, with next to no miles on him), and given some time, could be a good 3rd RB for the Hawks this year if someone were to get injured. The fact that Carroll and Schneider have re-signed him tells us that he has the potential to improve and they see some sort of upside with him.
Here's the thing about Henry that intrigues me - in the zone blocking scheme employed by the Hawks it's basically a one-cut and go type situation for the running back on a lot of calls. The blocking is set up on different levels for the back to choose a seam and run downhill. With Henry's acceleration speed and power, you'd be seeing him hit the hole hard and if he gets past the 2nd level, good night. Obviously this is a bit pie in the sky, but it does give you something to keep an eye on if injuries happen this season because he's got the athletic ability to succeed in a situation like this.
It's interesting to look at some other ZBS running backs around the league that have has success behind a line where they get some good zone blocking - practice squad guy Ryan Torian of the Redskins is one example; he came on strong for Mike Shanahan last season after Clinton Portis went down and has benefitted greatly from this scheme - he blew up Tampa Bay last year for 173 yards (158 in the first half alone), and check out the writeup at Bucs Nation detailing the ZBS employed and how the Bucs adjusted to it after getting dominated early for a little more on that subject.
Either way, though at the moment Henry is more a camp body/practice squad guy than a potential contributor, as it goes- "you can't coach speed" - and this is something Henry has in his back pocket at 6'0 230 and a 4.4 forty. If he can prove to be reliable in picking the seam and hitting the hole hard, then a lot of people could be surprised.