While Antonio Gates is set to return for a 15th season with the Chargers this fall, the future of the position in Los Angeles rests with second-year tight end Hunter Henry.
Henry had an impressive rookie campaign, catching 36 passes for 478 yards and eight touchdowns with the Chargers last year. The first glance at Henry last year has left tight ends coach John McNulty incredibly bullish about what the future has in store.
“He led the league in touchdowns (by a tight end, tied with Cameron Brate), and that’s not something you ever expect out of a rookie,” McNulty said, via the Chargers’ website. “But Hunter is a kid who is going to play a long time with a lot of successful seasons. For a young player, he’s got a tremendous amount of poise. He has rare awareness and savvy for someone his age. You don’t have to spell everything out A-Z for him.
“The biggest thing is that he has ball skills. He can catch the ball that gets in on him fast, and he makes the contested catches with big, strong hands. You look at some of those touchdown catches, they weren’t easy. Balls were down below his knees, up over his head and he had guys draped over his back. But he’s just able to concentrate and make those plays. Those touchdowns and third down conversions are obviously big plays, and can make the difference in a game. That is what separates him from a regular player.”
While Gates was still Philip Rivers’ favorite target, Henry showed he could be a significant threat in the red zone as well. But Henry’s blocking ability also made an impression on McNulty.