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Jets Top 20: Can Chris Herndon continue rookie progress to become consistent weapon?

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Jets Top 20: Can Chris Herndon continue rookie progress to become consistent weapon?


Checking in at No. 11 broke out during the second half of his rookie season, but now has to back it up and prove that progress was legitimate ...

No. 11 ...

WHO: Chris Herndon

POSITION: Tight end

AGE: 23

YEAR: 2nd

HOW HE DID IN 2018: Herndon’s rookie year was the tale of two seasons, really. He tallied just seven catches for 47 yards over the first five games, including two in which he did not record a target. Then, everything changed. From Week 6 on, Herndon became one of quarterback Sam Darnold’s favorite targets. He notched at least 50 receiving yards in five of the final 11 games and topped 30 yards in eight of them. He scored touchdowns in three straight games between Week 6 and Week 8. Clearly, it took some time for Herndon to settle in. But once he did, he became a fairly consistent impact player, which understandably got the Jets and fans alike excited about his potential.

STATS: 16 games, 12 starts, 56 targets, 39 catches, 502 yards, four touchdowns

CONTRACT: Entering second season of four-year, $3.17 million rookie deal


WHY HE’S IMPORTANT: Herndon isn’t just a pass-catching tight end – he can block in both the running and passing games, too. In other words, he’s completed. And he’s frankly the only tight end on the Jets’ roster who can be described in that way. Beyond Herndon, the Jets are thin at the position. Eric Tomlinson is clearly pigeonholed as a blocking specialist. Daniel Brown flashed some pass-catching potential this spring, but has spent his first four seasons in the league as little more than a special teams hand. And Trevon Wesco could become a multipurpose weapon, but the rookie has yet to prove his receiving chops after a college career focused entirely on blocking.

So, for depth reasons alone, Herndon is vital to the Jets’ success. But there’s a big caveat here: Herndon has been suspended for the first four games of the regular season as a result of his DWI guilty plea. That means Herndon’s window to make an impact has already been reduced from 16 games to 12.

He’s also key because of the rapport that he and Darnold seemed to find last season; the two rookies enjoyed a quick chemistry. If they can build on that in the years to come, the Jets could have a fruitful partnership on their hands. Plus, if Herndon can prove that last season’s blossom wasn’t just beginner’s luck, it will force defenses to pay him respect whenever he’s on the field. That, just by virtue of adding another weapon, should help free up space for both Le’Veon Bell and the Jets’ receivers. By extension, of course, it helps Darnold. It’s also a huge bonus that the Jets can and will use Herndon in any situation. Often times, opposing defenses can sense what’s coming based on personnel – but Herndon’s three-down versatility can help hide whether a run or pass play is on the way.

Effectively, if Herndon’s 2018 growth continues, he’ll undoubtedly become a key cog in this offense and should help those around him be better at their jobs. But if he stumbles, it leaves the Jets with a big hole at tight end with no obvious solutions on the current roster to help solve that problem.

HE SAID IT: “He’s a unicorn-type player." – Jets head coach Adam Gase on Herndon’s versatility









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