I was really looking forward to seeing what Hunter Henry could do without Antonio Gates in the picture this season for the Los Angeles Charges. Henry, the former second round pick out of Arkansas, has shown nothing but fantastic efficiency in his NFL career.
Simply put, it's difficult to maintain high efficiency year after year, so when a player does, it indicates that he's good. The Chargers severely underutilized Henry with Gates still on the roster last season, but now that Gates has finally departed, I was expecting big things from Henry this season.
Unfortunately, as many of you know by now, Henry will miss the entire 2018 season with a torn ACL. This begs the question: who will fill in at tight end for the Chargers this season?
The Chargers' depth chart at TE behind Henry isn't anything special. They have Virgil Green, Braedon Bowman, and Sean Culkin. Out of those three, I think Green will be able to at least be an adequate replacement for Henry in his absence this season.
Green, who is almost 30 years old, has been around the league for a while. He brings decent blocking ability and freakish athleticism. His 139.4 burst score, which is his vertical jump and broad jump equally weighted in a metric to measure explosiveness, is the best out of every tight end in the NFL. Also, his 10.39 catch radius ranks in the 97th percentile of all NFL tight ends.
It's kind of weird to call a 29-year-old veteran raw, but I think that's kind of the best way to describe Green. He has the elite athleticism, but he hasn't ever developed into an above average route runner. His hands are also mediocre, and he suffers from the occasional dropped pass.
But Green doesn't have to be exceptional. He's not ever going to fully replace the impact of Hunter Henry, that's a given, but he has the ability to be a solid contributor on an above average offense, which is all the team should be asking of him.
The Chargers are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Their roster is so talented. I've seen people writing them off after Henry's injury. The injury is a huge blow for L.A., no doubt, but I think Virgil Green will do just fine as his replacement. Don't count the Chargers out just yet this season.