Hunter Henry has lost significant time to injury during the first four years of his NFL career. A torn ACL cost Henry the entire 2018 regular season while a tibia plateau fracture in his left knee sidelined him for a quarter of the 2019 campaign. Those concerns likely contributed to the Los Angeles Chargers' heretofore unwillingness to sign the 25-year-old tight end to a long-term contract extension.
But those issues would not ultimately matter all that much if Henry didn't perform at a high level when on the field, something he has demonstrated throughout his career. According to Pro Football Focus, Henry boasts a 132.3 passer rating when targeted since entering the league in 2016, the highest such figure for any tight end over that span. That puts Henry ahead of future Hall of Famer Rob Gronkowski (119.1) and All-Pro Travis Kelce (118.9).
As a metric, passer rating doesn't provide as complete a picture as other figures. However, over a sizable sample, it does provide a snapshot of how a passing game operates and can provide some useful clarity regarding quarterback-receiver tandems. The passer rating signal-callers post when targeting Henry highlights the latter's reliability as a pass catcher when healthy, something former Chargers QB Philip Rivers often praised in recent years.
And it bears mentioning that Henry does more for the Chargers offense than run routes and catch passes. His in-line blocking makes a material impact on the ground game and allows for the regular use of play-action, something Los Angeles will feature more in 2020. Whether Henry can stay healthy for a full season -- something he has yet to do in his career -- will affect numerous aspects of the game plan.
Certainly, the Chargers need Henry to break his string of bad injury luck during the upcoming season. If he can, a hefty contract awaits him, whether in Los Angeles or somewhere else.
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH