One of the NY Jets’ best players relative to his position is long snapper Thomas Hennessy, who has proven to be a model of consistency.
Believe it or not, there is a player on the New York Jets roster who has been considered one of the two best players at his position in each of the last two seasons.
He goes by the name of Thomas Hennessy.
Entering his fifth season as the Jets’ long snapper, Hennessy is almost never discussed by human beings who inhabit Planet Earth. As of the time this article was published on July 5, his name has been tweeted just four times over the past two months. Throughout the course of the Jets’ 2020 regular season, his name was tweeted 55 times over 112 days, an average of 0.49 tweets per day by the 190 million-plus active accounts on Twitter.
And that’s a good thing.
If a long snapper is being discussed by the average fan, it most likely is not because he did something good. Whether it be an errant snap, missed tackle, or penalty, long snappers stand out the most when they do something bad.
Hennessy has almost never done any of those things. That’s why you don’t hear a peep about him.
Appearing in all 64 games since 2017, Hennessy is the only player to appear in every Jets game over that span.
The Duke product has developed into one of the best long snappers in the league, providing the Jets with a lot more than just consistent durability. Hennessy graded out as PFF’s No. 1 long snapper in 2019 (82.3 special teams grade) and remained elite in 2020, ranking the league’s No. 2 long snapper (80.5 special teams grade).
Hennessy suits up every single week and rarely launches a bad snap – which are the two requisite traits for an NFL long snapper – but what puts him over the top as an elite long snapper is his ability to contribute in punt coverage (which Hennessy himself broke down on film on the Cool Your Jets podcast last year).
Over the past two seasons, Hennessy made nine tackles in punt coverage, ranking second among long snappers behind Philadelphia’s Rick Lovato (10).
Nine tackles over two seasons is an absurd total for a long snapper. From 2019-20, the average team got 1.4 tackles out of the long snapper position per season, or 2.8 tackles over the two-season span. Hennessy more than tripled that.
Hennessy had more than twice as many tackles as every long snapper in the league over the past two seasons outside of Lovato, the Chargers’ Cole Mazza (5), and the Chiefs’ James Winchester (5).
The most impressive aspect of Hennessy’s punt coverage is how efficient he is. Hennessy had just two missed tackles to go along with his nine tackles. In 2020, Hennessy made five tackles while missing zero.
Not to mention, Hennessy has never committed a penalty in his NFL career.
Let’s dive into the Rockland County, New York native’s subtly elite punt coverage.
Hennessy launches a smooth, accurate snap and absorbs the head-on bull rush from the 2-technique to keep Braden Mann safe. Pursuing downfield, Hennessy takes an inside angle on the returner (Diontae Spencer). Once Spencer cuts inside, it’s Hennessy’s play to make – and he better make it, because there is no outside help.
Spencer tries to cut outside on Hennessy, who dives and attempts to cut Spencer down at the knees. Hennessy is successful, landing a hard shot on the knees to prevent a potential touchdown by Spencer. Game-changing play.
In yesterday’s special teams breakdown, I discussed how Braden Mann can do a better job of launching punts that squeeze returners against the sideline. This is a perfect example of that. Mann blasts a 53-yarder that pins Jakeem Grant to the edge of the field, and it makes things easier for the coverage team.
Vyncint Smith gets downfield in a hurry to buy time for the rest of the coverage team. Matthias Farley follows him to slow Grant up further. Finally, Hennessy flies in and makes the low finish to hold Grant to a loss of one yard on the return, resulting in a 54-yard net punt.
Hennessy makes a really nice block in protection. The Seahawks overload the right side (the Jets’ left), so the Jets’ protection slides left. This means that the left guard (Bryce Hager) is going to leave the 3-technique for Hennessy to pick up in the A-gap. Hennessy makes the snap (a pretty one), and once it’s out, he immediately fires out of his stance to range left and pick up the rusher.
In pursuit, Hennessy takes a lane down the middle of the field, directly at the returner. Hennessy goes low and gets a piece of the returner’s left leg, sending him tumbling to the ground as he leaps over him. It’s not a pretty finish by any means, but it’s a job done well nonetheless. Hennessy was in the right place at the right time to halt the return.
Hennessy effectively handles a stunt from the Rams’ front. Initially, Hennessy pursues directly at the returner on a punt to the Jets’ right side (our left side). Hennessy gets off of a block and works inside, but he notices the returner heading outside, so he flattens his angle and aggressively darts outside to cut off the lane up the sideline.
Hennessy times his arrival impressively well, meeting Nsimba Webster just as he whizzes by to force him out of bounds.
It is an absolute travesty that Hennessy did not make the Pro Bowl in either of the last two seasons. He put the Jets organization on his back and tore the league apart on a weekly basis. It’s not his fault that the rest of the team couldn’t pick up the slack to accrue wins. As we saw with Kevin Durant in the 2021 NBA playoffs, a superstar cannot carry a team to the promised land alone, no matter how dominant he is.
Alright, we’re obviously exaggerating here. With that being said, Hennessy has proven to be an extremely solid player for the Jets at a position that certainly has an effect on the game even if it is relatively small. You don’t realize how a long snapper can impact the game until you see him mess up. It is also difficult to picture how much more production Hennessy provides in coverage than the average long snapper until you compare his numbers against his peers.
Hennessy undoubtedly deserves a Pro Bowl appearance at some point down the road if he maintains the same level of performance he has been putting out.
A Hennessy Pro Bowl appearance would be somewhat historic for the Jets. As of right now, the Jets have not sent a native of New York or New Jersey to the Pro Bowl since New York City product D’Brickashaw Ferguson was named to the game in 2011. Hennessy was 17 years old at the time.
Ten years later, it’s time for Hennessy to get what he’s owed.
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