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Can 2019 be Hunter Henry’s breakout season?

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Los Angeles Chargers
Dec 3, 2017; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry (86) reacts after a first down catch during the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

By all accounts, Henry was ready to take a big step forward before tearing his ACL last offseason, and there is no reason to think that is not still the case heading into this coming season thanks to the high rates at which elite athletes return from ACL injuries to continue at their previously high levels. The idea of Henry taking a big step forward should strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses for two reasons.

The first reason is that Henry was already borderline dominant in 2017. He was the third-most productive and fourth-most efficient tight end that season trailing the likes of Travis Kelce and the now-retired (or perhaps that should read the for-now-retired) Rob Gronkowski. Drafted in 2016, the Chargers’ tight end was immediately one of the most balanced players at his position, and he did not have a long way to go from where he started to be in the conversation for best in the NFL. It’s honestly a difficult to envision what a step forward even looks like for a player as good as he already was.

The second reason is that the Los Angeles offense in the 2018-19 NFL season was incredible. They were the clearcut #3 unit behind only the Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs. And as a passing offense they were only looking up at the Chiefs. Where they were slightly less effective than that ranking was in the redzone where they were admittedly still very good, ranking 8th in touchdown percentage. That is where Henry can instantly represent a huge improvement. The 6’5” former Razorback is an obvious weapon by the goal line. In 29 career games, he has hauled in 12 touchdowns. He will take pressure off Melvin Gordon and Mike Williams who shouldered much of the load in his absence this past year.

Anthony Lynn’s Chargers were already one of the NFL’s best teams in 2018, and with Henry they are both more dangerous and more consistent. Henry is also valuable be the 20s and will feature an especially important role on 3rd downs where his large frame and sure hands can fairly be expected to keep drives going and keep the defense resting on the sidelines.