The last I spoke on the subject, I called it the dramatic fall of Chris Herndon. Heading towards training camp, I’m not sure if we’ve seen the bottom.
He’s become a player that fans love to hope on, including me, but now it seems that expectations are starting to waiver — at least amongst a couple of the Jets beat writers.
In their minicamp round-ups, both Connor Hughes and Rich Cimini had similar takes on Herndon.
Hughes, of The Athletic, labeled it an “open competition at tight end.” He also noted that “Tyler Kroft and Ryan Griffin look like the better players” at this point.
ESPN’s Cimini told fans that Herndon “failed to distinguish himself this spring.” He added ominously: “Let’s just say he needs a strong training camp.”
According to Hughes, it doesn’t appear likely that Herndon would get cut this summer, but the generally optimistic beat writer even admitted it was a possibility. He wrote that the tight end shouldn’t lose his roster spot despite forfeiting the starting job, “at least not yet.”
This is a drastic difference from the Herndon prognosis of years past. It’s important to remember that Mike Maccagnan drafted the tight end, meaning he has no ties to this current administration.
The patience and support are running thin, and only the former Miami star can change that.
Tyler Kroft Stabilizes the Offense
Although Herndon has the greater potential, Kroft brings stability to this offense. He may not be as athletic, but with the current Jets’ wide receiving core, he doesn’t need to be.
More importantly, he has reliable hands and he excels as a blocker. Two things that are much more necessary of the tight end position in Mike LaFleur’s offense. If he’s making grabs like this, that’s just icing on the cake.
The former Cincinnati Bengal and Buffalo Bill definitely profiles more as a secondary tight end and safety net, which is why I advocated for Joe Douglas to try and trade for Zach Ertz, but he’s trusty enough to get the job done in a pinch. And that’s exactly what the Jets are in right now.
As the full-time Bengals starter in 2017, Kroft had his best campaign, but only totaled 404 receiving yards. He did catch an impressive seven touchdowns that season.
Tight End Will Not Be the Focal Point of This Unit
This position isn’t likely to be asked to do too much in this offense, at least not with the current group of players it has.
Griffin has also made some plays in OTAs and minicamp. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that both of the old-school types surpass Herndon on the depth chart.
The chemistry between the rookie quarterback and the two veterans is huge and should not be underestimated. Wilson will fall back on that trust when he’s under pressure or facing adversity.
We have not seen that same faith in Herndon or rookie Kenny Yeboah so far.
Might Need to Add to This Group
It’s not just the overall talent, but the injury history that scares me in this shallow group. Herndon has not stayed healthy since his rookie season and already had hamstring tightness at minicamp.
Kroft has also been derailed in the past. His main injury was a broken foot in 2018, which he later reaggravated with the Bills. If this tight end room becomes Griffin, Yeboah and Daniel Brown with Trevon Wesco as the hybrid fullback, the Jets are in trouble.
Outside of Ertz, here’s what’s left of the tight-end market in 2021.
- Trey Burton; a good blocker with a career-high of 569 receiving yards in 2018.
- Jesse James; released by Detroit Lions this spring, career-high 423 receiving yards in 2018.
- Tyler Eifert; has not been healthy in years and only amounted to 349 receiving yards with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.
Other Trade Candidates
- David Njoku; Cleveland Browns have shopped the receiving talent in the past, but have decided to keep him for the moment. Free-agent in 2022.
- O.J. Howard; unlikely but Tampa Bay has gauged interest on the former first-round pick before. With Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate on the roster, they could be persuaded to do so again.
The candidate that still makes the most sense to me is Ertz. He has the Philadelphia Eagles connection to Douglas and he’s a respected team leader, something that is important to the Jets GM. Burton could also make sense as a scheme fit for LaFleur.