Herndon entered OTAs as the incumbent starter, but by the time minicamp rolled around, the likes of Tyler Kroft and Ryan Griffin were each receiving first-team reps ahead of him.
Questions immediately emerged as to why Herndon had seemingly been demoted, even temporarily. According to Connor Hughes of The Athletic, the reasoning might be more than simply performance-based.
Hughes reported on Wednesday that Herndon has "struggled to pick up the playbook" which might explain why Kroft and Griffin are now ahead of him on the depth chart.
The NY Jets are giving Chris Herndon one final chance in 2021.
A fourth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Herndon immediately emerged as a potential star in the making when he hauled in 39 catches for 502 yards and four touchdowns in his rookie season — leading all rookie tight ends in catches and touchdowns.
However, he's failed to reach the same heights since.
His 2019 season was virtually a wash as a suspension and two different injuries limited him to a collective half of football. And the less said about his utter disaster of a 2020 season the better.
There was a time when Herndon had more drops and fumbles than he did catches last year. Whatever bizarre mental funk he was in might have carried over into the spring.
The hope was that, with a new coaching staff, Herndon could rediscover the potential he showed in his rookie year. But it's been an inauspicious start to his year, to say the least.
Now, being behind in the playbook in the spring is far from a death sentence. By all accounts, the Jets aren't necessarily upset with Herndon, they're just easing him into the new offense.
If he returns this summer and shows that he has a clear grasp of the new playbook, he might very well reclaim the majority of first-team reps at tight end.
But this likely isn't how Herndon envisioned the start to his 2021 season going.
The Jets dabbled in Jonnu Smith's market this offseason but ultimately pulled out when his price tag got too high. Part of that was because they didn't see the tight end position as a must to upgrade.
The new staff likes Herndon and sees him as a good fit for their scheme. But he'll have to first exorcise his mental demons if he's to find any success with the Jets this season.
Chris Herndon is on his last legs with the Jets organization. And he'll need a strong summer to re-establish his role with the team.