Jaguars' C.J. Henderson thinks great debut could have been even better

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Intercepting a pass to set up a touchdown and breaking up a fourth-down pass to seal an upset victory is pretty good as NFL debuts go.

Not, however, for Jacksonville Jaguars rookie cornerback C.J. Henderson.

“I imagined better,” he said.

Don’t get him wrong: He said he was thankful for what happened and eager to get back to work, but he just saw himself doing a lot more than he did in the Jaguars’ 27-20 victory over the Indianapolis Colts at TIAA Bank Field. As for exactly what he imagined, though, he wouldn’t say.

“If I tell you, it probably won’t happen so I’m going to keep working and just keep working,” Henderson said. “I’m about to go home to all my family and a whole bunch of messages, but I’m going to try to block it out and get ready for the next week because I’ve got to do it again.”

It’s that consistency, playing at a high level week after week, and never being satisfied that separates good players from elite players. The latter is what the Jaguars expect Henderson to become, which is why they drafted him ninth overall this past April.

And while Henderson might not be completely happy with what he did against the Colts, the Jaguars certainly were happy with the start of his career: five tackles, the interception and three pass breakups.

“We’ve seen that from C.J. all along [throughout training camp],” coach Doug Marrone said. “He’s a guy that really has great ability and has the ability to make plays and really be a difference-maker. I think there’s probably some technique stuff that we’ll keep going and correct. And that’s what’s great about C.J. He’s constantly wanting to learn, he constantly wants to be a better football player, and we think he’s a heck of a player now.

“If someone said, ‘Hey were you surprised?’ I’d say, ‘No,’ because you could see his footwork, you could see what he does, and you could see how hard he works when he’s out there. And the greatest part about C.J. is just really how important it is to him.”

One of the questions some analysts had about the 6-foot-1, 204-pound Henderson coming out of Florida was his willingness to be a physical player and tackler. Henderson answered that against the Colts by upending receiver Parris Campbell a yard short of a first down on a third-down play. It could have been a big play, as Henderson was the only defender in the immediate area.

Henderson also had two tackles in run support, which is going to be even more important on Sunday when the Jaguars play Tennessee and running back Derrick Henry on Sunday. The 6-foot-3, 247-pound Henry has rushed for 441 yards and seven touchdowns in the last three games against the Jaguars.

“I’m not here to prove anybody wrong [about his tackling],” Henderson said. “I’m here to prove myself right and not worry about what other people have to say, because that would affect the way I play.”

Linebacker Joe Schobert said Henderson’s interception in the second quarter is what flipped the momentum because that set up the Jaguars’ first touchdown to tie the game at 7-7. However, he also said Henderson did display one glaring weakness on the field against the Colts, though: not knowing what to do after his first career interception.

“He just threw the ball on the ground, so I had to go run back and grab it because I had to make sure he got that for his keepsake,” Schobert said. “I didn’t want the Colts to steal it from him.”

If that’s the biggest negative from Henderson’s debut, then he has started on the right path to justifying the Jaguars’ belief that he can become an elite player.