It’s not an award players want to win, at least until something like a major injury occurs. But if you’re going to come back to the field, you might as well do so with a bang.
Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry should be a prime candidate to win the NFL’s annual Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2019 after tearing his ACL in OTAs last May. It was a devastating loss for the team, though it did its best to mask his absence.
The emergence of Mike Williams helped tremendously.
Going forward, the idea of having Keenan Allen, Williams and a healthy Henry on the field at the same time is tantalizing and come Week 1, the Bolts will be ready to unleash that upon the league.
With Henry missing the entire regular season and only appearing in the playoff loss to the New England Patriots, where he clearly wasn’t part of the game plan, Henry will be in line to be the league’s top comeback story.
Which other players will be in line for the award?
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp missed a chance to play in the Super Bowl due to a season-ending injury. Earl Thomas, now of the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo each had bitter ends to their 2018 campaigns. And don’t forget about former Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett, who is now in San Francisco.
But Henry could surpass all of those players with a breakout season, the one many imagined him having last year. He has 81 catches for his career, but as good as he is, he has yet to be the main target at tight end for the team. In 2017, his last full season with the team, he was on the field for just 56.2 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, according to Pro Football Reference.
That number will balloon way up this season and with Antonio Gates about to turn 39 years old, there’s no reason to bring him back. In fact, if Henry hadn’t gotten hurt last season, he likely would not have been brought back then either.
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Henry will be one of the Chargers’ biggest keys to success this season, something that helps factor into winning that award. He and Rivers have a tremendous success rate when Rivers throws him the ball, despite them not having a chance to play together as much as they should have.
Winning NFL Comeback Player of the Year isn’t a bad thing, either. Here’s just a short list of some of the players who have won it:
Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Drew Brees and Rob Gronkowski. Rivers and Allen have each won it as well. Here’s a bold prediction. Henry will have more than the 81 career receptions he has so far in 2018 alone. As a huge red-zone target, he’ll find the end zone at least 10 times.
Numbers like those could bring some personal hardware, but they could also help the Chargers hoist the team trophy that they have their eyes on as well.