When the New England Patriots dropped their Week 18 matchup against the New York Jets, their season (somewhat mercifully) came to an end. New England finished 4-13 and recorded their lowest win total since 1992.
The Patriots season was really a tale of two sides of the ball. The New England offense struggled to move the ball and put up points at a league-worst rate, while the defensive unit ranked towards the top of many statistical categories. Calls from some fans for the Patriots to tank was a drastic fall from grace for a fanbase that had been accustomed to booking a spot in the AFC Championship Game for so many years.
The next few weeks are gearing up to be tumultuous ones in Foxborough. Head coach and de facto general manager Bill Belichick's future with the Patriots is uncertain after 24 years in charge, and seismic changes could be coming if a new GM and head coach are brought in. The Patriots are slated to have the third overall pick and could target a franchise quarterback, while new front office personnel could look to overhaul both the coaching staff and roster.
Much has been made of the struggles of the 2023 New England Patriots, and much is still to be analyzed and written. For now though, here are a few players that flew under the radar and put up impressive, but underrated seasons. Here's to them and the optimism that they brought to an otherwise dreadful season.
5. Hunter Henry
Although this is meant to be more of a compliment to Hunter Henry, his success highlights the astonishing ineptitude of New England's offense this season as well. After a career-low 2 touchdowns in 2022, Henry bounced back in the 2023 campaign with 6 receiving touchdowns. Despite the Patriots' offensive struggles, Henry was tied for the second second-most receiving touchdowns by a tight end in the NFL.
Henry led New England in touchdowns and finished second in receiving yards while missing three games. Concerningly, Henry was the Patriots second-highest scorer, with kicker Chad Ryland as the clear frontrunner.
The Patriots only had 16 passing touchdowns the entire season, meaning Henry caught nearly 40% of the team's total. He became a favorite target of Bailey Zappe once he took over under center, helping to spark an offense that had sputtered all season long. Henry caught two touchdowns from Zappe in a Thursday Night Football win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and another a week later against the Kansas City Chiefs before missing the Patriots' last three contests.
One of a few players on this list that will be entering free agency, Henry's ability to produce as a red zone threat in an otherwise putrid offense should make him an attractive candidate on the free agent market.