The NFL’s 2019 regular season is still almost two months away, but we already know that the first matchup between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets will see one of the latter team’s best players not suit up: Chris Herndon has been suspended by the league for the first four games of the year, as first reported by Dov Kleiman, meaning that the reigning world champions will not have to face the Jets’ top tight end in week three.
Herndon joined New York as a fourth-round draft pick last year and immediately established himself as a solid contributor in the team’s offense: the Miami product appeared in all sixteen of the Jets’ games in 2018 and was on the field for 62.4% of their offensive snaps (625 of 1,001). He also was a regular member of the club’s special teams units and played a combined 165 snaps (of 496; 33.3%) in the kicking game.
When on the field, Herndon proved himself a productive all-around tight end and one of rookie quarterback Sam Darnold’s favorite weapons: he was targeted 56 times, coming away with 39 receptions for 502 yards and 4 touchdowns — finishing the year as the number two pass catcher on the team in each of the last three statistics. Furthermore, Pro Football Focus’ twelfth-ranked tight end was a solid pass protector in his first NFL season.
Against the Patriots, Herndon had moderate success last year. While he caught a career-high seven passes in week twelve (for 57 yards), he registered only one 8-yard reception during the regular season finale. Nevertheless, the 23-year-old is a solid player and one of New York’s most dangerous offensive weapons. The Patriots not having to defend him in the first of the division rivals’ meetings is a positive development from their point of view — especially considering the Jets’ tight end depth.
Daniel Brown, Eric Tomlinson and fourth-round rookie Trevon Wesco — who combine to have caught 51 receptions in the NFL so far — are currently expected to form New York’s tight end group to open the regular season. Needless to say that any of the three players will likely be a downgrade from what Herndon brings to the table as a pass catcher, blocker and special teams presence.