Patriots Gameday: Hunter Henry emerging as the tight end target of old

New England Patriots tight end Hunter Henry emerging as a top tight end target in the NFL in 2023.
Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots
Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots / Adam Glanzman/GettyImages

If the New England Patriots offense is to come up big against a physical, aggressive New York Jets defense, Mac Jones and company will need a big day from their tight ends, most notably Hunter Henry.

Now named team captain, Henry has been a top target for Jones through the first two games of the season.  In fact, he has been the team’s most reliable target.  The man with the “C” on his jersey has 11 receptions for 108 yards and 2 touchdowns through Week 2 of the NFL season looking much like the tight end the team signed in free agency back in 2021.

Hunter Henry starting to look like that classic Patriots tight end

Henry popped that first season with the Patriots, but like the entire offense, took a step back in 2022.  Still, the big tight end proved he was a reliable target for Jones with 509 yards receiving.  This season, with Mike Gesicki at his side, he is in for a big year, so far increasing his fantasy value while instilling leadership on the offensive side of the ball.

“He’s a true professional and every meaning of the word.  He does everything right.  Has been a leader and obviously was voted captain for the right reasons…,” Gesicki told the team’s official website.  “His route running, he’s super patient, doesn’t get overly excited when he’s about to get the ball, which a lot of guys do.  But he still understands the timing and spacing of routes to help himself get open.”

Henry hasn’t put up the kind of numbers Rob Gronkowski did during his prime years with the Patriots, but those are tough shoes to fill for any tight end putting on a Patriots’ uniform.  What he does and has given the offense is a big target in the middle of the field and the red zone to get the ball to.  With Bill O’Brien back as offensive coordinator, the role of the tight end was expected to increase, and Henry is looking like that Patriots target of old.

Again, not that same buzz the offense had when Gronk was the featured tight end, but a playmaker who has solidified himself as a go-to target for young quarterbacks.  He was a security blanket for Justin Herbert during his rookie season in the NFL and has become that for Mac Jones through his first 3 seasons in the NFL.

In trying to get into the win column against the Jets this week, Henry will have an opportunity to make plays due to being a big target who Jones will look towards quickly.  With Sauce Gardner lurking around that talented Jets’ secondary, the physicality of Henry and that route running skill will play a big role. 

Can he make the contested catches?  Can he find ways to get open when the team needs to move the chain?  Those will be things to watch in this game as the Patriots’ offense will have to find ways to not allow the Jets’ defense take control of the game.  Limiting turnovers and moving the chains will help settle that.  Getting Hunter Henry in the mix early and often could also set the tone.

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Let’s get the big tight end going.

It’s game day.