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Jets hope Chris Herndon can build on his last game

New York Jets tight end Chris Herndon celebrates

New York Jets tight end Chris Herndon celebrates with teammates after making a touchdown catch against the Los Angeles Chargers during the second half on Sunday in Inglewood, Calif. Credit: AP/Jae C. Hong

Chris Herndon is thankful that he made a few impactful plays in the last game. The Jets are thankful, too.

Herndon would have been much more grateful if he had done it in a victory, but the Jets hope the tight end can build off last week’s game and become a reliable target again.

"It felt good to get a few plays and feel myself have those few sparks of success last week," Herndon said. "But we didn’t come out victorious and this isn’t an individual game. I can’t sit after the game and focus on myself."

In his rookie season in 2018, Herndon had four touchdown receptions, the second-most on the Jets. He appeared in only one game last year because of injuries and a suspension, but the Jets had high hopes that he would be a main playmaker this season. They expected his return to give their offense a big boost.

Adam Gase called Herndon "a unicorn" because of all the ways he can impact a game, but he has been a major disappointment.

Herndon has only 16 catches for 133 yards. He was targeted three times last Sunday against the Chargers, the most since Week 5. He scored his only touchdown of the season and caught two passes for 32 yards, his most since Week 1.

He could have had more. The first pass to him hit him right in his hands, but he dropped it.

That’s been Herndon’s season. He dropped a couple of passes earlier in the season, including one in the end zone, and fumbled away two others. Herndon’s snaps and targets continued to shrink.

"It’s been pretty difficult," he said. "But if I sit around and pout and complain after every game, it’s not going to help anything. You have to find a way to get back on the field, find something else to get better at, something that you did well during the game, try to capitalize off that and continue to try and put it all together. Eventually, hopefully it all works out for you."

Gase hopes that this was the turning point for Herndon and the 0-10 Jets, who have lost their last two games by a total of nine points. Gase still views Herndon as a weapon, and he’d like to utilize that in the final six games of this season.

"Sometimes you just need some good things to happen," Gase said. "He made two really good plays. It’s just keep giving him those opportunities, just see if we can keep building on them.

"In this offense, the slot [receiver] and the tight end have huge roles. The way NFL defenses play, if you can single up the tight end, it just undresses everything that a defense is trying to do in man, zone. If you have an athletic tight end who can get open one-on-one, he’s going to beat a linebacker or a safety. It can open up so many things for so many different guys when your tight end is productive."

The Jets are in evaluation mode and Herndon is someone who has a chance to stick in an offseason that is expected to be filled with change. Despite his struggles this season, he has the skills to be an effective and productive tight end. His ability to block in the running game and protect the quarterback make him valuable.

To Herndon’s credit, he didn’t sulk when things weren’t going his way. He stayed positive and put in additional work. He said he added more workouts to his regular regimen, watched more film and asked questions.

"He’s always positive," Gase said. "He’s always, ‘Hey, I’m good. I promise you I’m good. We’re going to make plays.’ We just got to keep going. We just got to keep trying to get him to make plays and put him in the right position and hopefully just build his confidence."

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