The Patriots’ new tight end duo had a solid, if unspectacular, debut. Eight combined catches for 73 yards. Good-but-not-perfect blocking. It’s a proverbial work-in-progress.
But if Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry were one thing against the Dolphins, they were unpredictable. And the Patriots hope to maintain that unpredictability throughout the season.
Smith and Henry had an almost perfectly even distribution of total snaps (55-54 in favor of Smith) against Miami. The Pats used them together as part of their base “12” personnel offense (one running back, two tight ends, two wide receivers) on 35 snaps, and had a run-pass distribution of 22-13 out of those groupings.
Of course, the Patriots hope that the “12” personnel engine will lead to better results than 16 points on the scoreboard. But what they want to do with Smith and Henry together is clear: move the ball on the ground, throw it with some play-action mixed in, and let the two set each other up as the games dictate. Oh, and keep the opponents guessing.
“Yeah, I think balance is what everybody wants to strive for, right? You never want to be predictable,” said tight ends coach Nick Caley on Tuesday. “I mean, that’s not what you ever want to do. So, I think balance is what you want. Fortunately for us, Hunter [Henry] and Jonnu [Smith], they can do both, they can block in the run game, they can run routes, they’re versatile, they can play off each other, and they’re both smart, and they work their tails off.
“So, that’s important for us. You never want to be pegged as a one-trick pony, that’s for sure. So you take a lot of pride in that, and that’s what we ask our guys to do, and they embrace it every single day.”