In 2021, TE Hunter Henry was a vital part of the New England Patriots’ offense. In his debut season with the team, Henry racked up 50 receptions for 603 yards in 17 games. Henry also caught a career best nine touchdowns.
Most importantly though, Henry was a reliable and trustworthy weapon for Mac Jones. The Patriots did not feature a pass heavy offense last season, but when they did throw, Henry was often on the receiving end. The two had great chemistry on the field.
HUNTER HENRY’S FIRST TOUCHDOWN AS PATRIOT! 🚨— Guy Boston Sports (@GuyBostonSports) October 4, 2021
The Patriots take the lead over Tom Brady!pic.twitter.com/Ub1FxTkg3x
HUNTER HENRY TOUCHDOWN #ForeverNE | #PatriotsBrasilpic.twitter.com/2okEtJHKbe— Patriots Brasil (@patriotsbrasil) December 19, 2021
Hunter Henry is a touchdown MACHINE 🔥#ForeverNE— TWSN (@TWSN___) November 14, 2021
Flash forward to today, and Henry is no longer a premier part of the offense. Henry has appeared in all nine games for the Patriots in 2022. He currently has just 19 receptions for 240 yards and a single touchdown. He’s been targeted just 28 times, an average of just 3.1 times per game.
The most alarming thing here is the significant drop in touchdowns. To be fair, there are still eight games remaining in the season. There is still time to increase his production. Yet based on how the team has used him in the offense thus far, I don’t see it.
I honestly believe this is a huge side effect of Josh McDaniels leaving. As frustrated as I had grown with McDaniels towards the end of his time in Foxborough, there was one thing he was very good at. Utilizing the Tight End position was a staple of his offense.
Rob Gronkowski is obviously the name that comes to mind here, and that is clearly the best example. McDaniels however could utilize pretty much any Tight End not named Matt LaCosse or Devin Asiasi. He made guys like Tim Wright look relevant.
Last season he made Henry a key piece of the offense. Especially in the red zone, Henry was a weapon for sure. He did a ton of damage in the red zone, and was mismatch for most defenses.
Mac Jones threw 18 touchdowns in the red zone last season. Red zone touchdowns actually accounted for 81.8% off all his touchdowns last season. Exactly half of those 18 red zone touchdowns were to Hunter Henry.
Hunter Henry’s sixth touchdown reception in the last seven weeks. Red-zone option New England has needed since Rob Gronkowski left. pic.twitter.com/j5v78kOXBX— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) November 14, 2021
This season Mac has just three red zone touchdowns, and none of them have gone to Henry.
I do have to note that Mac has missed time with injury, and the Patriots have not been as efficient getting into the red zone this season. That being said, the Patriots have one of the worst red zone offenses in football this season.
So a lot of the blame has to fall on the shoulders of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge. Their bad play calling and schemes has lead to this problem. Funny enough, Henry could be the solution.
During the second half of the season, the Patriots need to include both Henry and fellow under utilized Tight End Jonnu Smith a lot more. Especially in the red zone, these guys could be the key to jumpstarting this offense. Henry was a key piece last season, and if the Patriots want to reach the playoffs again this year, they need to find a way to make him a key piece once again.
Featured Photo by Andy Lyons / Getty Images
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