Mac Jones and Hunter Henry are starting to give glimpses of the old magic
November 3rd, 2022
Mac Jones and Hunter Henry are cooking something up.
The Patriots quarterback and tight end forged a strong connection in 2021, including nine touchdowns. That same spark hasn’t been there so far in 2022, as Jones and the offense have worked through a new system, new play-callers, injuries, and inconsistency. But a pair of chunk catches by Henry over the last two weeks give a glimpse of hope that the 2021 magic is on the verge of returning.
Henry made catches of 12 and 22 yards against the Bears and Jets, respectively. Just two catches, obviously, but they were both striking because they came down a seam against zone defense. Henry has been deadly in the intermediate area of the field (10-19 yards), catching four of five targets for 79 yards and a touchdown (via Pro Football Focus). That’s a perfect 158.3 passer rating.
Why not build on that? The last two weeks could be all Jones and Henry need to rekindle the fire.
“We’re always trying to execute well at a high level,” Henry said Thursday, on himself and Jones. “We put a lot of work in, we’ve put a lot of work in together, we’re both trying to get back into it together. He’s doing a great job, man. So, I’m excited to get back out there and have another opportunity this weekend.”
Henry should have a chance to get open on Sunday. The Patriots are going up against Gus Bradley, who’s in his first year as Colts defensive coordinator. Bradley is best known as the former defensive coordinator of the “Legion of Boom” Seahawks, and still runs his usual Cover-3 zone.
Despite a lot of talent at all three levels of the Colts defense, this is a system Bill Belichick knows how to attack. He hasn’t always had the personnel to do it. But between Jakobi Meyers, Rhamondre Stevenson, and Henry, you can expect a lot of quick throws and exploitation of soft spots over the middle of the field.
HOUSTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 10: Hunter Henry #85 of the New England Patriots celebrates a touchdown during the second half against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Don’t be surprised if they take a shot at Henry down the seam at some point.
“However it comes, it just goes down to taking what the defense gives, whether that’s the short, or the medium or the long,” Jones said Wednesday. “If your long guy’s open then you want to give him the ball. If he’s not, then work through your progressions, things like that. But it always goes back to taking what the defense gives.”
The next step, other than a higher volume of connections, is to make something happen in the red zone. New England enters Sunday tied for the fourth-worst red zone touchdown rate in the league (45.8 percent, per TeamRankings.com). Henry was a key piece of the Patriots’ red zone passing game whenever they had success with it in 2021. Sunday would be a good time for Jones and Henry to connect in the end zone, with the Patriots at 4-4 and hungry to hit the bye week over .500.
But if Henry’s usage in the last two games is any indication, the duo is working toward getting back to their 2021 level, and doing it consistently. It would be a much-welcome development in a chaotic season for the offense.
Oct 3, 2021; Foxboro, MA, USA; New England Patriots offensive guard Mike Onwenu (71) and quarterback Mac Jones (10) and tight end Hunter Henry (85) celebrate a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.