FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Wide receivers Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims practiced in full on Wednesday, making the Jets’ offense almost whole. But theirs is not the only return that has the Jets excited heading into Sunday’s opener at Buffalo.
One of Sam Darnold’s favorite targets, Chris Herndon could be in line for a big year. The third-year tight end only played in one game last season due to injury and an NFL suspension. Herndon is anxious to play and is on a personal mission to show he can be counted on.
“I definitely want to prove to myself that I’m back and I’m better than I was when I last was out there,” Herndon said on a Zoom call after practice.
Herndon’s only game last year was Nov. 10 against the Giants. He was targeted twice, caught one pass for 7 yards and fractured his rib. His season was over, a crushing blow to the Jets and Herndon.
The season began with Herndon serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He then missed the next four after suffering a hamstring injury a few days before he was set to come off the suspended list.
After all that Herndon experienced last year – and he said there were times he was not in a good place – his objective is to really put 2019 behind him.
“Just prove that I could go back out there and play at a high level and compete with the best of the best consistently each and every week,” Herndon said. “Just that I can still play football . . . Just a lot of proving to myself.”
The Jets’ receivers’ room, heading into camp, didn’t inspire anyone outside of their own building. Injuries to four of the top six projected receivers raised even more questions about whether Darnold had enough weapons
Mims missed all of camp with a hamstring injury. The rookie practiced Wednesday for the first time. Perriman was out for more than two weeks with a knee injury before returning Wednesday. Vyncint Smith (core muscle surgery) and Jeff Smith (shoulder) are starting the season on injured reserve.
Perriman and Mims will give the Jets’ more playmakers. But whenever Adam Gase is asked about the perceived offensive deficiencies, he immediately brings up Herndon.
“Getting Chris Herndon back is one of the guys that nobody really talks about,” Gase said. “Obviously him and Sam have phenomenal chemistry together.
“Herndon was a pretty good player that first year they played together," Gase added. "To get him back alone, I’m pretty fired up about.”
Herndon played well when he and Darnold were rookies. Herndon became a regular target for Darnold on third down and in the red zone. Herndon caught 39 passes for 502 yards and four touchdowns. Herndon finished second on the Jets that year in all three categories.
“It means a lot seeing that my coaches and teammates have that type of belief in my abilities and my talents,” Herndon said. “That just goes back to me getting back out there and proving that I’m myself again and I can play this game at a high level still and doing it consistently.”
During his off-season workouts, Herndon tried to find a way to become even more valuable. He said he worked on everything this offseason, with "a focus" on getting stronger to be more effective blocking defensive linemen and linebackers.
“Chris is one of those guys you don’t have to take off the field, he can do everything,” Gase said. “From his ability to pass (protect) and run block, he’s a unique guy. As long as he stays healthy and that’s what we’re hoping for and he’s trained extremely hard to make sure he does, that’s a huge weapon for us.”