Chris Herndon may still technically be an NFL rookie, but the Jets tight end has a veteran’s savvy when it comes to questions over whether he wants Sam Darnold or Josh McCown throwing him the ball at Tennessee on Sunday.
“We believe in both, whoever they put back there,” Herndon said after today’s practice in the Atlantic Health Training Center fieldhouse. “It’s up to us to make the plays that they throw our way, whenever they call our number, and do it for the team.”
But in Herndon’s case, “feel strongly both ways” is no doubt true. When Darnold was at QB for the first nine games, Herndon started to emerge in the offense and in fact had those scoring receptions against the Colts, Vikings and Bears that landed him an entry in the franchise record book as the rookie TE with the most consecutive games with a TD catch.
Then Sunday against New England, it was McCown’s turn to find the 6’4″, 253-pound target from Miami. And find him Josh did, for seven catches on eight targets, 57 yards and three first downs.
That’s not a record performance but it’s still a green milestone of sorts. In the last 15 seasons, the only other Jets tight ends with at least seven targets and no more than one target without a catch were Kellen Winslow (7-for-8 in the 2013 opener vs. Tampa Bay, Dustin Keller (three times) and Chris Baker (7-for-8 in the 2005 opener at Kansas City). The only rookies even close to Herndon’s Sunday best were Jace Amaro (10-for-12 vs. Denver in ’14) and Keller (8-for-10 at New England in ’08).
In the big picture, he’s got 26 receptions for 314 yards. By comparison, veteran Austin Seferian-Jenkins had 41 for 315 after 11 games last year and the only other Jets TE with more yardage through 11 games since 1990 were Keller and Johnny Mitchell.
Herndon declines to dabble in self-congratulation over his continuing growth.
“I feel like I’m just trying to do everything they ask me to do and do it as well as I can,” he said. “I don’t really look at the stats. I just see it as me having my number called and doing my best to make the plays.”
More good news could be ahead for Herndon heading up against the Titans since he says he hasn’t run into that notorious rookie wall.
“I feel like I’m doing a good job of keeping my body up and keeping it moving, doing whatever I can,” he said. “The days when I wake up a little more sore, I just come straight here. I get massages when they’re needed. Even the sauna’s been great for just keeping your weight down. I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job of that.”
As a result, it will be entertaining to watch Herndon continue his pretty good job on the field for the final five games of his rookie campaign.