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New York Jets: Who will start at tight end during Chris Herndon’s absence?

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - AUGUST 08: Ryan Griffin #85 of the New York Jets looks on before the game against the New York Giants during a preseason matchup at MetLife Stadium on August 08, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - AUGUST 08: Ryan Griffin #85 of the New York Jets looks on before the game against the New York Giants during a preseason matchup at MetLife Stadium on August 08, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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The New York Jets will be without tight end Chris Herndon for the first four weeks of the season. Who will fill in while the promising young tight end serves his suspension?

The New York Jets may have had a difficult 2018 season, but the development of rookie tight end Chris Herndon was one of the few positives to take away from the year.

Herndon was selected by the Jets in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of the University of Miami. Despite initially beginning the year behind veteran Neal Sterling on the depth chart, Herndon was given his chance to start following an injury suffered by his teammate.

And while Herndon wouldn’t put up monster numbers in a starting role, he showed enough promise to convince the team that he’s one of the key building blocks of the future of the Jets offense.

The 23-year-old would finish the season with 39 receptions for 502 yards and four touchdowns — pacing all rookie tight ends in both catches and touchdowns. In fact, only Baltimore Ravens rookie Mark Andrews finished with more yards on the year.

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However, the Jets will, unfortunately, be without Herndon for the first four games of the regular season. His absence stems from an off-field DWI incident that took place less than two months after he was drafted by the Jets.

Gang Green will obviously be looking for another impressive showing in his sophomore NFL season once he returns. But for the time being, the Jets will have to turn to others to carry the load.

So the question remains, who will be starting in his place come Week 1?

The most likely answer to that question is six-year NFL veteran Ryan Griffin. Griffin has spent the last six seasons playing for the Houston Texans and he’s actually put together some pretty respectable career numbers.

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In 77 games played — 36 starts — Griffin has hauled in 136 receptions for 1,491 yards and seven touchdowns. Not bad for a former sixth-round pick back in 2013.

Arguably his best season, in terms of production, came back in 2016 when he totaled 50 catches for 442 yards and two touchdowns, splitting time with C.J. Fiedorowicz at tight end.

Griffin brings with him starting experience as well as veteran leadership to hold down the fort in Herndon’s absence. The 29-year-old will likely be given the first crack at the starting role, though don’t expect him to be as involved in the passing game as Herndon will be.

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Elsewhere on the roster, the Jets signed former Chicago Bears tight end Daniel Brown in the offseason to provide some extra depth. Brown originally entered the league as a free agent wide receiver out of James Madison before being converted to tight end.

The 27-year-old has spent the past two and a half seasons playing for Chicago but played almost exclusively on special teams last year. Expect him to be the primary secondary option in two-tight-end sets for the time being.

Finally, the third tight end on the Jets roster is fourth-round rookie Trevon Wesco. Wesco has a very interesting skill set that equates more to H-back than an actual tight end.

Nonetheless, Wesco will likely be the Jets primary blocking tight end following the long-overdue release of Eric Tomlinson this offseason. The rookie had a quiet preseason and is clearly a bit buried on the depth chart, but should be given every opportunity to succeed while Herndon is out.

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Ultimately, expect the Jets to use a lot of two and three-tight-end sets to make up for the absence of Herndon.

On top of that, we could see the Jets regularly split running backs Le’Veon Bell and Ty Montgomery out wide at receiver to fill the pseudo fourth receiver role that Herndon would usually occupy.

New head coach Adam Gase will likely turn to various different schematic methods to alleviate the loss of Herndon. But expect Griffin to be given the biggest opportunity to prove his worth come Week 1.

Next. New York Jets: 2019 will prove these are not ‘the same old Jets’

The Jets will surely miss Herndon over the first four weeks, but one man’s misfortune is another’s opportunity.

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