NY Jets: Chris Herndon’s return will open up the team’s offense

NY Jets (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images).
NY Jets (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images). /

The NY Jets will see the return of tight end Chris Herndon in 2020 after missing essentially all of 2019. And his return will help open up the team’s offense.

The NY Jets‘ offense sputtered in 2019 for a variety of reasons. But one of the more under-the-radar reasons was the absence of their starting tight end, Chris Herndon.

Sure, the offensive line play was atrocious. Yes, the coaching staff might’ve hindered the roster more than they helped. And injuries certainly didn’t do the team any favors.

But the Jets missed Herndon in 2019 — they missed him in a big way.

The 2018 fourth-round pick played in all 16 games during his rookie season starting for the vast majority of it. He finished the year with 39 catches for 502 yards and four touchdowns — excellent numbers for a rookie tight end.

In fact, he paced all rookie tight ends in 2018 in both receptions and receiving touchdowns while trailing just Mark Andrews of the Baltimore Ravens in yards by a slim margin. Both Herndon and Andrews were mid-round picks whose rookie seasons resembled each other in a lot of ways.

But the similarities between the two ended following their rookie campaigns.

Herndon was suspended for the first four games of 2019 for a DUI that occurred before he had even signed his rookie contract. And his subsequent return was delayed by injury before his season would be effectively ended by a different ailment that forced him to the injured reserve.

In total, Herndon finished 2019 with one catch for seven yards in a lone Week 10 appearance against the New York Giants.

Andrews, on the other hand, shined in his sophomore NFL season finishing with 64 catches for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns. His performance left many Jets fans wondering what could’ve been if Herndon had played a full season.

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And those same fans are hoping to see just that in 2020.

Herndon established an excellent connection with quarterback Sam Darnold in his rookie season and he became the USC product’s safety blanket. But in 2019, that role was handed to veteran Ryan Griffin who performed admirably.

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But there’s no debate that Herndon is an improvement over Griffin as both a pass-catcher and as a blocker. Perhaps that latter trait is what’s most often overlooked.

The Jets’ offensive line struggled mightily in 2019, both in pass protection and in run blocking. A lot of that was due to the talent (or lack thereof) up front, but the team’s lack of a viable blocking tight end certainly hurt too.

Neither Griffin or special-teamer Daniel Brown offer much as a blocker and rookie Trevon Wesco was used more frequently as a fullback than a true in-line blocker.

Herndon not only gives the Jets an extra receiving option amongst a depleted group of pass-catchers, but he allows the Jets to do so much more on the ground.

The Jets rarely ran outside runs in 2019 and while some of that was due to their subpar tackles, their tight ends served as the final deterrent. Griffin and Brown were simply ineffective in sealing off the edge and creating holes for the running back.

Instead, the Jets opted for the safer, yet equally ineffective approach of running up the middle behind an overmatched Jonotthan Harrison and others.

Chris Herndon changes everything.

His presence will allow the Jets to diversify their running game while also finding more success on the ground in the process. On top of that, he will give Darnold a reliable target in the passing game in a collection of unproven, inexperienced bodies.

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Chris Herndon was severely missed in 2019, but his return will allow the Jets to open up their offense in 2020.