Can Patriots' vision of a two-tight end offense finally materialize in 2022?

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As of right now, the New England Patriots don’t know who they are on offense.

Are they an outside zone team? Are they a downhill running team? Do they spread you out from the shotgun? Do they put Mac Jones on the move from under center? There's no clear answer after a week of padded practices at training camp.

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But if there’s one thing you can say about the Patriots' offense, even with all its warts, it’s that they have two tight ends playing very well at the moment.

Whenever New England puts both Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith on the field together, life seems to get easier for Mac Jones and this offensive unit. Stand them together on the end of the line of scrimmage, and the outside zone concepts the team has been drilling for more than a week finally start to look competent. Split them out and move them around the formation, and suddenly Jones has quick, easy throws available to him.

If we can see it, it’s hard to think the office of coaching staff and Bill Belichick don’t see it, too.

"We're just trying to create mismatches in different areas and ways that we can exploit those," Henry said of his pairings with Smith. "We're trying to push each other, communicate together, too. We work together a lot. There was some growth last year, and [we're] just continuing that forward."

When the Patriots signed Smith to this four-year, $50 million free-agent deal last season, it seemed at first as if the team had chosen Smith's potential over Henry’s reliability. Not so. New England made sure to snatch up Henry on a three-year, $37.5 million contract as well, stoking fantasies of another go-round of Gronkowski-Hernandez-esque two-tight end dominance.

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But while Henry had a strong season, especially as a red-zone target, Smith was nowhere to be found by comparison. Through a few weeks of practice, they already look more useful together than they ever did in 2022, which is one of the most positive things you can say about the Patriots' offense right now.

"Just gotta execute, man," Smith told WEEI after practice. "Whatever play is called, whatever sets are out there…it doesn't matter whatever personnel we're in. At the end of the day, we're here to win. Whatever it takes, that's what we'll do…it's about going in the right direction with the right people out there."

Is it too much to hope that the Patriots learned their lesson from last year and will lean into the two-tight end system more now than they did in 2021? Maybe. But there’s no denying putting the "right people" on the field currently has to mean having Henry and Smith on offense together.