The Jets have been longing for a true pass catching threat at the tight end position since Dustin Keller, and they just might have struck gold with Chris Herndon. Herndon, a pleasant surprise from the fourth round in 2018, showed his all-around ability as a pass catcher, blocker, and consistent security blanket for Sam Darnold, especially in unscripted moments. Sadly, Herndon’s looming four game suspension to start the season leaves the Jets with question marks at the position yet again. With only Eric Tomlinson (yikes) and unproven rookie Trevon Wesco on the roster, the Jets moved to sign six-year veteran Ryan Griffin after he was cut by the Texans. Can Griffin be the guy to hold down the fort in Herndon’s absence?
Griffin, released by Houston in May, has good size at 6’6” and 255 pounds. He provides the Jets with a red zone target and is a capable blocker. Griffin was second and third string for the first five years of his career in Houston, but was named the starter in 2018. His production is limited overall with only 136 catches and 7 touchdowns in six years. He did catch 50 passes in 2016, clearly his best year.
The encouraging part of the Griffin signing is that he provides the Jets with a somewhat proven pass-catcher in a position group that is devoid of that ability. If you think the Jets can operate without a pass catcher at tight end, I would invite you to check the highlights of the Thursday Night Buffalo game from 2015. Trust me, it’s a necessity. Griffin is the most well-rounded of the remaining tight end group (outside of Herndon) and will need to assert himself as a trustworthy option for Darnold.
On the contrary, the concern is that Griffin only caught 24 passes in 2018 despite being named the starter, and, outside of the aforementioned 2016 season, has failed to make a significant impact despite being on Texans’ rosters that weren’t very strong at the position.
The Jets 2019 season begins with a very tough road. The Jets face two playoff teams (Patriots, Eagles) and two very much improved teams (Browns, Bills) in those first four games. It is imperative that they avoid a rough start, and that will only be more difficult with Herndon sidelined. The Jets hope that Griffin can slide in and not miss a beat. They are going to need him to.