To get a better grasp on the player I wanted to watch him against three of the more physical/athletic defenses in the country. So I watched LSU, Alabama and Ole Miss and came away thinking there are two reasons where I think it's pretty clear as to why the Chargers drafted Hunter Henry in the 2nd round. There's 1 area where he'll need to improve if he wants to reach his ceiling. With the tight end in front of him, I imagine fixing this issue won't be a problem. Let's start with the 1st reason why I believe the Chargers took the tight end out of Arkansas.
- Dominant run blocker
- Issues working through traffic/tipping his routes off
- Savvy on crossing routes
Committing to the run
I wouldn't say that the team lacked a commitment to the run. I would say the team lacked balance and creativity in the run game. The strength of Melvin Gordon in college was getting him to the edge and letting him use his athleticism to create. Last year it was inside zone, inside zone, inside zone. Not many counters or plays that allowed Gordon to get to the edge. Only 7% of the team's runs went outside and to the right. A lot of that is due to play-calling. But, as you know, it's not like the tight ends on the roster are even average run blockers.
Henry is as close to an extra offensive lineman as it gets.
From his impressive footwork that allows him to seal defensive lineman, to strength to be able to maintain his ground. Blocking his 80% effort, and Henry has plenty of that. Our own Jerome said after he watched Henry against Kansas State 1 word to describe the tight end was "refreshing." That's a pretty apt comparison. It's sad to say this, but it's unusual to see tight ends execute as a run blocker as well as Henry does. That's a compliment in Hunter's case.
Some Hunter Henry vs LSU. He's a p damn good run blocker. pic.twitter.com/F8JDZzFkI2— KP (@KP_Show) May 2, 2016
Each of the three videos includes both the positives negative bulleted above.
Working through traffic
For a player his size, I expected Henry to be a little better over the middle of the field. When it came to sifting through trash, he seemed to get caught up and was a little hesitant when he saw linebackers. This seemed to throw off the timing and cause the QB to hold the ball a little longer than he wanted. This was apparent in each of the games. Ole Miss doubled him on some routes, so he was receiving extra attention. Perhaps that had something to do with it. You'll see later that he has plenty of acceleration when he's crossing the field where, at over 250 pounds, he should be running through contact.
The bigger issue with Henry was tipping off of his routes, or simply not selling his routes when he was ready to break either inwards or outwards. Mainly this was an issue over 10 yards. He had a tendency to lean as he was crossing the middle and allowing the linebacker to stay in his hip pocket. Hunter was in a play-action heavy offense where he ran mostly drags, digs, quick outs and deep corners. On the deep corner routes he would give a head-fake but it never really initiated separation. The good news is the guy ahead of him is okay at creating separation and having nuance in his routes. Also, Henry is so damn big where even if he's not open, he's open. This will be something to track as Henry evolves as a player moving forward.
More. Bama wasn't great. Had trouble working through trash and getting open underneath. Initiated contact too much pic.twitter.com/nmWgGj0Thn— KP (@KP_Show) May 2, 2016
It's interesting in that Henry doesn't have much nuance as a route runner the further he gets down the field but under five ards you see him set up defenders. We know that the Chargers have been a half-court offense and liked to dink and dunk their way down the field. The Chargers run quite a few crossing routes, and you'll have to be able to separate somehow within five yards to give yourself a chance to create after the catch. Henry is excellent at this.
Vs Ole Miss. Tips off his routes beyond 10 yards. I like how he uses hesitation when he crosses tho. + run blocker pic.twitter.com/lQWcGXbAl6— KP (@KP_Show) May 2, 2016
What I liked the most was Henry would use the other receiver or a defender not guarding him as a shield so to say to get open. Then he was able to accelerate and get open. Because his QB is terrible, he didn't have many opportunities after the catch, but there was certainly some savviness when Henry ran routes under five yards. There was one crossing route where after he had crossed the field, he faked a head-fake like he was going upfield then kept crossing. It wasn't a target, but those are the things you like to see. This is yet another area where Henry will be able to help the offense day one.
Henry flexed out as a receiver and was fine there, too. I like the player. I think it was a little rich, but I also get why you choose him here. Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt is a genius of a play-caller and now has more flexibility in the run game. He can also stay in 12 personnel with two tight ends and still work every level of the field on pass plays. So the team isn't one-dimensional when Henry is on the field. A ceiling for Henry would be a Greg Olsen type who is an excellent blocker but also can be a dependable pass catcher at every level. If Henry develops close to that, then this is worth more than the 35th pick overall.