The Los Angeles Chargers are perhaps the most talented losing team in the NFL. To kickstart the offense, LA must start getting Hunter Henry involved.
The Los Angeles Chargers offense has been the epitome of inconsistency this season, as evident by the team’s most recent loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. This team has no shortage of talent on that side of the ball, which means the team’s struggles in this area can likely be attributed to poor coaching
There are a multitude of mistakes that have been made by the coaching staff this season, but the most glaring problem has been the refusal to get young tight end, Hunter Henry, involved.
Last season Henry proved to be an extremely effective red zone weapon, as he accounted for eight touchdowns as a rookie. Henry only has two touchdowns this season so far, a clear regression from last season’s production.
Henry has proven that he can be more than just a red zone threat as well. He has the talents to be a legitimate, every-down tight end, which makes it inexcusable that the Chargers refuse to treat him as such.
The Chargers record when Henry has five or more targets is 3-1 –with the only loss being in week two to Miami, when the team was in position to win the game if not for a missed field goal by former kicker, Younghoe Koo, with less than a minute remaining in the game—and a staggering 0-5 when Henry is targeted less than five times.
This dramatic shift in team success is no coincidence, as Henry’s lack of targets is a direct result of poor coaching. For example, in week one against the Broncos, Henry was often kept in to block, in an attempt to counter Denver’s elite pass rushers.
On top of blocking for a majority of the time he was on the field, Henry only played 29 snaps that game, opposed to Antonio Gates’ 39. At this point in Gates’ career, there is no reason he should be on the field more than Henry.
Not only did Henry end the game with zero receptions, this idea to leave Henry in to counter Von Miller did not work, as the Chargers offense was stifled by the lack of time available for plays to develop. One of the team’s top weapons was taken out of the game, for no real reason.
This was not an anomaly either, Henry also finished the week three loss to the Kansas City Chiefs with zero targets, as the team got completely shut down by the Chiefs’ defense.
Not involving Henry is detrimental to the offense because, without Henry, the team gets absolutely no production from the tight end position, with Gates being far past his prime. Attacking the middle of the field is very important for any balanced offense, and the tight end is the best way to do so.
The tight end is also often the quarterback’s fall back option if all else fails in a play. Rivers is no exception, as he is used to having one of the best fall back options of all time, Antonio Gates, for his whole career. The absence of tight end production, and a pass-catching running back like Danny Woodhead – Rivers’ other favorite safety blanket— has left Rivers without his usual two favorite check down options, which is why Rivers currently leads the NFL in passes thrown away.
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Simply put, no tight end production leads to Rivers throwing the ball away, Rivers throwing the ball away leads to dead drives, dead drives lead to terrible offensive performances, and terrible offensive performances lead to the team losing games they are capable of winning.
It seemed as if the team had finally figured out that Henry’s contributions to the offense were key, as they rattled off three straight wins, with Henry totaling 205 yards and a touchdown in those three weeks. The offense, and in turn the team, was showing signs of life.
That, of course, ended quickly, as Henry was only given four targets in the last two weeks combined. To no one’s surprise, the offense put up a poor effort in both games.
Eventually, the Chargers must realize that they need to do whatever it takes to get Hunter Henry involved in the offense, or they will continue to struggle on that side of the ball.