Chris Herndon Could Be New York’s X-Factor In 2020

Tight end Chris Herndon made an impact during his rookie season in 2018, catching 39 of 56 targets for 502 yards and four touchdowns. Not only did he supply the New York Jets with rare tight end production, but his chemistry with fellow rookie Sam Darnold was obvious. Heading into last season, there was some buzz regarding Herndon’s development and most analysts and pundits projected him to improve in his sophomore campaign. 

However, due to a substance abuse suspension and multiple injuries, he only saw the field in one game, a Week 10 matchup against the New York Giants. Now with a revitalized offensive line, some new playmakers and with Darnold in his third season under center, the expectations are lowered for Herndon, but his potential remains the same. 

“I think he is a guy we are excited to get back and can’t really wait to get going and see how he will fit in with everything,” Adam Gase recently told Ethan Greenberg of Jets.com. “We expected him to be a big part of the offense last year and we didn’t even get that opportunity. I think we are adding a guy that is a very good player that is finally going to be able to get back in the mix of this thing.”

In Herndon’s absence last season, Ryan Griffin emerged as a viable red zone target, catching five touchdown passes in 13 games played. In the six seasons (77 games) with the Houston Texans before joining Gang Green, he caught seven touchdown passes, so his ability to catch the football in clutch situations was a bit of a pleasant surprise. 

Since Griffin is still on the team, perhaps Gase and his offensive staff will devise ways to get both tight ends on the field at the same time. While Gase has traditionally favored “11” personnel packages (one running back, three receivers, one tight end) and the Jets used a “12” package (one running back, two receivers, two tight ends) at the fourth-lowest rate in the NFL last season, having both viable pass-catchers healthy and available could change that philosophy, especially in short and intermediate passing situations.

With trustworthy possession receiver Jamison Crowder, home-run hitter Breshad Perriman and rookie Denzel Mims all projected to be major parts of New York’s offense alongside running back Le’Veon Bell, there’s a strong chance that Herndon could immediately re-establish his connection with Darnold and make a huge impact. Per DraftKings, the tight end has an over-under line of 600.5 receiving yards, so oddsmakers are expecting him to produce. 

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