LANDOVER, Md. — The Jets were looking forward to a productive year from their starting tight end, and that has turned out to be the case. The only difference: It’s not Chris Herndon who has been the reliable tight end, it’s Ryan Griffin.
The former Texans veteran, who was released in the offseason and signed by the Jets to tide them over until Herndon returned from a four-game suspension to begin the season, has become one of Sam Darnold’s favorite targets.
Griffin had his first 100-yard receiving game in the Jets’ 34-17 win over the Redskins on Sunday, finishing with five catches for 109 yards and a touchdown. His 45-yard catch late in the second quarter sparked a touchdown drive that ended with Darnold hitting Griffin for a 16-yard scoring pass on the next play to give the Jets a 20-3 lead with 36 seconds left before halftime.
The Jets had hoped that Herndon would be the one to star at tight end this season, and Griffin was essentially an afterthought. He was signed as a caretaker at the position while Herndon served a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, but he has begun to develop a nice chemistry with Darnold.
“It’s a lot of hard work at practice,” Griffin said. “When Sam got sick [with mono], it was tough because we missed out on a lot. I was new to the offense. It’s a new offense, and Sam being out, it got off to a slow start. We’re coming around and jelling at the right time.”
Darnold hit Griffin on a long pass down the left side after Griffin had broken free from the Redskins’ defense. “They kind of lost me in the shuffle,” Griffin said. “I didn’t want to start waving or anything, but I know Sam’s going to get me the ball in those situations. It’s always those when it feels like the ball is in the air forever. I just tried to put the jets on.”
He couldn’t get into the end zone on that play, but it didn’t take long for him to score. On the next play, Griffin got open in the left corner of the end zone fto give the Jets a 17-point lead.
Griffin, who has 25 catches for 269 yards and four touchdowns, has filled in well in Herndon’s absence. It was a disappointing season for Herndon, who suffered a hamstring injury upon his return from suspension and was hurt against the Giants in his first game back last week. Herndon’s season ended with just one catch.
Griffin has taken advantage of the opportunity. “I have to give credit to all my teammates,” he said. “They did a great job welcoming me. The coaches as well. This is my seventh year in the league. I know the way it goes. I’m just happy they gave me a shot here.”