Trevon Wesco
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

The New York Jets will be missing tight end Chris Herndon for their first four games, but several players can help soothe the blow.

Geoff Magliocchetti

The New York Jets took a big loss before even a single 2019 snap was taken.

Tight end Chris Herndon was suspended last week for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. The Jets will be without one of their biggest returning producers for a difficult first quarter of the schedule. Herndon earned 39 receptions for 502 yards and a quartet of touchdowns in his debut. All of those marks were good for second on the team.

Herndon will miss a dangerous opening portion of the 2019 slate. The Jets open their season against two optimistic AFC squads from Buffalo and Cleveland at home before taking on the hated New England Patriots. A visit to Philadelphia after an early bye-week ends the suspension stretch.

The forced departure forces the Jets to find a replacement for a fair amount of offensive firepower. It’s obviously not an ideal situation, but solutions hide in the lesser-explored areas of the Jets’ roster.

Trevon Wesco

Fourth-round lightning could strike twice for the Jets. The selection of West Virginia’s Wesco in the fourth round was a surprise to some, but clarity for the pick was gained with the Herndon suspension.

Wesco is one of three tight active tight ends on the Jets’ roster. He’s likely the one with the most upside in the receiving despite his rookie status. Eric Tomlinson (the lone returnee from last season) has eight receptions over three New York seasons. Veteran newcomer Daniel Brown had no grabs in 14 games and was signed mostly for his special teams skillset.

Wesco was almost in that boat as well. He wasn’t a receiving thought until his senior year when he earned 366 yards on 26 receptions. The Mountaineer nonetheless made a name for himself as a blocker, one good enough to earn all-Big 12 honors to end his time in Morgantown. His ability as an established blocker and budding catcher could give him in the inside track to earn Week 1’s start.

MarQueis Gray/A.J. Derby

The mark of head coach/brief interim general manager Adam Gase made his mark on the Jets’ roster. Arrivals Matt Darr, Luke Falk, Josh Bellamy, and Deonte Thompson will each reunite with Gase after prior collaborations in Miami and Chicago. It’s possible they could seek services from Gase’s former apprentices one last time to briefly solve the Herndon situation.

Gray spent two seasons with the Dolphins during Gase’s head coaching tenure. A third was cut short thanks to an injury suffered last season. Throughout the course of a career that began in 2013, Gray has occasionally lined up at fullback. He’s even handled a few carries, picking up 57 yards on 11 attempts. This second talent could convince Gase and company to consider a reunion.

If the Jets are looking for a more traditional receiving option like the one Herndon provided, the alternative could be Derby (pictured). The veteran team up for a year and a half of play under Gase and had a career-best season of 244 yards and two touchdowns in 2017. With little further options at the position in the receiving game, this outside help can add another twist to roster drama come training camp.

Ty Montgomery

Is he a running back? Is he a receiver? The Jets don’t care, as this addition of Montgomery can be the gainer they need. Montgomery isn’t a tight end but can gain some of those lost receptions and yardage.

He’ll be one of many Jets seeking redemption come the regular season. His career of being a secret fantasy weapon in Green Bay came to an end after a highly publicized mistake in October. He would go on to be used sparingly after being traded to Baltimore.

Primary targets from Sam Darnold will likely go to Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa. But Herndon’s suspension allows Montgomery to take on a bigger role in the Jets’ offense and establish a new goal of reclaiming his NFL career. If he can make some big receptions in some crucial early games, he’ll earn that goal sooner rather than later.

Reserve Receivers

A new contract and a second-round tender show the trust and priority the Jets respectively have in Enunwa and Anderson. Montgomery can be a dual-threat and Jamison Crowder is a new option in the slot. There are nonetheless plenty of other options, both of the veteran and undrafted variety, that will spend the summer fighting for their active roster lives. All of them can help fill the void Herndon left behind.

The aforementioned Thompson and Bellamy bring a dozen years of experience between them. Greg Dortch and Jeff Smith bring their ACC prowess through rookie free agency. Returnees Deontay Burnett and Charone Peake will look to make their mark. The more options for incoming sophomore Darnold (and the more pressure taken off the prized addition Le’veon Bell), the better off an offense struggling to gain traction is going to be.

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