Hunter Henry continued his impressive 2023 Training Camp performance with another red zone touchdown on Tuesday, as the veteran tight end has been the team's most reliable target through the first week of practices.
"Doing what I do, man," said Henry on Tuesday following the sixth session of the summer. "Just trying to make plays when the ball presents itself, trying to do what the team needs most, if that's in the run game, pass game, whatever it is. That's kind of the biggest thing, just trying to execute what my job is each play, and if the ball finds me, it finds me."
So far the ball has been finding Henry plenty in training camp, as he looks to build a resurgent 2023. The tight end hasn't missed a game in two seasons with the Patriots since signing a three-year deal with the team in 2021, but he saw a precipitous dropoff from nine touchdowns in his first season to just two in 2022. That was symptomatic of the entire offense that finished 32nd in the red zone last year.
This summer the attack has looked rejuvenated under offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, whose history with Patriots tight ends is well-documented and reason to think Henry is excited for his arrival. If the early practices are any indication Henry is poised for a bounce-back season, especially in the gridiron's most important area inside the 20s.
"OB does an amazing job of presenting things, how we can improve things," said Henry of O'Brien. "We're doing well, but attacking in a way to just continue to take it day by day. We're not gonna win the Super Bowl tomorrow, but we've got to attack the day like it's super important. Come out here and take in every single day. It's fun to be in a room with him and we're learning a lot."
On Tuesday the Patriots implemented plenty of screen passes, which Henry said needed to be heavily repped because of all of the moving parts. When those screen plays hit they can go for big yardage. While everything shouldn't be expected to firing on all cylinders at this point, a new offensive foundation is being laid, something aided by the team's extensive offseason participation. Both Henry and fellow tight end Mike Gesicki were among the team's offseason award winners.
A noticeably thinner Henry said he was in the best shape he's been in since he arrived, dropping some excess weight but still feeling strong.
"We attacked the spring and did a lot this spring and I would say the majority of everybody was here so that was huge for us so we were able to carry a lot over early in camp," Henry said. Once we threw the pads on that's always an adjustment of trying to get back in the flow. It's been a long time since we've done that. Adding to the run game, adding some of the passing game that we have, and just trying to compete, everything together."
Adjusting to a new coordinator and his playbook can take time, especially with a coach who has as much experience as Bill O'Brien, whose vast experience makes for a complex collection of plays. Henry is enjoying soaking it all in as the dog days of the summer arrive in the lead-up to the first preseason game.
"I always just try to be a sponge as much as I can so that I can soak up as much as I can so that by game time comes, it's just squeeze me and that's what comes out," said Henry. "I'm just trying to soak up as much as I can from OB. He's been in so many different systems... college, pro, lotta success here, going to Houston. I think the system is the biggest thing, learning the system, and how he sees things, how Mac sees things, and trying to be cohesive as an offense."