After being one of the top red zone threats for the Patriots in 2021, Hunter Henry has had a noticeably quieter 2022 season, with just 25 receptions for 336 yards and two touchdowns through 12 games. Henry came off his best game of the season against Minnesota last week, with three receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown. In reality, Henry also should've had about 10 more yards and another touchdown, but the score was called back on an egregious ruling of Henry not surviving the ground and completing the catch, echoing the Jesse James ruling in 2017 which went in favor of the Patriots.
All that aside, against the Bills this past Thursday Henry was only able to bring in two receptions for 13 yards in a game that was riddled with offensive troubles. Early in the season, the tight end was a non-factor, but as the season has progressed, he has slowly been making his way into the target share.
Before coming to the Patriots, Henry was drafted out of the University of Arkansas by the San Diego Chargers, who are now the Los Angeles Chargers, with the fourth pick of the second round. At Arkansas, Henry put together an impressive resume with 116 receptions for 1,661 yards and nine touchdowns. In Henry’s junior year, he had 51 receptions for 739 yards and three touchdowns without a single drop. Henry would declare for the 2016 NFL Draft early after his explosive junior season in which he won the John Mackey award for the Nation’s best tight end as well as first-team All-SEC.
Henry grew up not far from where he would play his college ball, being from Little Rock, Arkansas where he would play high school football at Pulaski Academy where he became one of the top tight end prospects in the country. At Pulaski Academy, Henry exhibited great hands, an exceptional ability to run after the catch and break tackles, as well as being an aggressive blocker. Henry recorded 3,290 yards and 43 touchdowns off 216 catches in his high school career. With that, Henry committed to the University of Arkansas, following in a family tradition, due to his father, Mark Henry playing offensive tackle there from 1988-1991 and becoming a team captain his senior year.
Standing at six-foot-five and weighing 250 pounds, Henry had the mold of a great NFL tight end coming in. Henry's combine profile backed his physical attributes up, with his draft prospect grade being a seven, equaling to a pro-bowl level talent. So far in his career, he has been right at that level. Henry uses his size and strength in the blocking game as well as breaking tackles when the ball is in his hands. Henry also has decent speed for his size, making him a great red zone threat.
Henry would play for the Chargers from 2016 to 2020 before agreeing to a three-year $37.5 million deal with the Patriots. At San Diego/Los Angeles, Henry had big shoes to fill, with the most recent starting tight end being the legendary Antonio Gates. Henry stepped up to the challenge, recording 2,322 yards and 21 touchdowns off 196 receptions for the Chargers, earning his respect as an above average NFL tight end.
With New England historically having tight ends being integral parts of their offense, Henry made sense for the Patriots, after a year where there was little to no production from that position. Henry joined the Patriots the same year where Bill Belichick went on a free agent spending spree, also acquiring fellow tight end Jonnu Smith from the Titans. With Henry and Smith coming on board, it looked like the Patriots were trying to replicate the Gronkowski and Hernandez two tight end approach. So far, Henry has been the only tight end showing some flashes, with Smith not yet hitting his potential with New England.
The Patriots will be traveling to Arizona to take on the Cardinals for a Monday night game next week. Facing a fast and mobile offense in the Cardinals, this will likely be another week where the offense will have to keep up. Getting Henry and Smith involved in the passing game will be a must for New England, with Arizona being the worst ranked defense in regards to defending against tight ends.
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