Reason #4: Veteran experience to fill in for Hunter Henry
It goes without saying that there’s a decent chance Henry is hurt again in 2020. The injuries have stacked up in his career, and even if it’s only a four-game absence like in 2019, the LA Chargers still have to deal with it.
When comparing Clay and Njoku as potential options for the Chargers, one of the things that should be discussed is the ability to fill in for Henry if needed. We’ve gone over Njoku’s numerous shortcomings when he was previously a starting tight end in 2018. The blocking and drop rate are abysmal. In fairness to him though, he did put up 639 receiving yards in 2018.
Clay has obviously been put in a second tight end role since 2018, so it’s hard to tell how many yards he could put up if he was asked to be the starting tight end. I’d think the difference between him in Njoku in yardage would be pretty negligible though, especially considering the quarterbacks. Both Taylor and Herbert love giving a lot of volume to their tight ends.
If they’d both get a lot of targets in this scenario, the difference is really efficiency. As I’ve pointed out, Clay has simply been a more complete and efficient tight end than Njoku. Even if Clay is older and not as athletic, I’ll take that over the very serious blocking and drop issues from Njoku.
While Chargers fans may be excited about the potential of Njoku if everything goes right, it’s again worth pointing out that he’s going into his fourth year. Very few players blossom into something special after they’ve already been in the league for so long.
With Clay, the Chargers don’t have to give up any draft capital. They get solid blocking, a better catch rate, and veteran experience to fill in for Henry if need be. Clay simply makes more sense as the second tight end in 2020 than Njoku.