Having found success with Chris Herndon and Ryan Griffin in different seasons, the New York Jets have the potential for a dynamic duo.
The lack of weapons at Sam Darnold‘s disposal is a hot topic for the New York Jets. However, one could argue he has a two-headed monster at tight end, a luxury most NFL quarterbacks don’t have. That dynamic tight end corps consists of Chris Herndon and Ryan Griffin.
Although some teams have wide receivers in tight end’s bodies, not many have two who can be used and relied on in the passing game. Generally one is a receiving tight end while the others are mainly there to block. The Jets, on the other hand, have two guys who can do both.
In Darnold’s first two years in the league, he’s found success and formed great chemistry with his tight ends. During his rookie season, Darnold leaned on fellow rookie Chris Herndon heavily. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound stud out of Miami quickly found his groove within the Jets offense.
Over the course of the 2018-19 season Darnold connected with Herndon 39 times for 502 yards and four touchdowns. Herndon’s best game came during Week 16 in a shootout at home against the Green Bay Packers, a game in which the tight end reeled in six receptions for 82 yards, a touchdown, and one highlight-reel catch.
#Jets rookie TE Chris Herndon makes an impressive one-handed grab pic.twitter.com/DaExly0Btd
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) December 23, 2018
In fact, it was Darnold’s best performance of the year as well. Herndon’s 39 receptions and four receiving touchdowns were second-most on the team behind Robby Anderson, who led the team in both categories that year.
After his breakout rookie season, expectations were high for Herndon entering 2019. However, a bevy of problems derailed his sophomore season. A combination of suspensions and injuries ultimately did Herndon in. He suited up only once for Gang Green, playing 18 snaps in Week 10 against the Giants before being placed on IR with a rib injury.
You know the saying when one door closes another one opens? Well, so was the case for Darnold and his luck at tight end. With Herndon shelved for practically the entire season, Sam found a new favorite tight end target in the form of Ryan Griffin.
The veteran tight end who had spent his entire career with the Texans quickly became someone Darnold found on the field often. In 13 games last season, Griffin hauled in 34 receptions for 320 yards and five touchdowns. His five touchdown grabs were good enough for second-most on the team. He started in every game he played but a late-year ankle injury eventually ended his season.
There aren’t many teams that have multiple threats at the tight end position. Last year we saw the Ravens have success with multi-tight end formations as the trio of Hayden Hurst, Mark Andrews, and Nick Boyle combined for 125 receptions, over 1,500 yards, and 14 touchdowns. Baltimore ran a league-high 16.7% out of the 22 personnel and 17.1% out of 12 personnel according to NFL.com.
The Eagles are another team that found success utilizing two-tight end sets. Philadelphia ran the most plays (46.1%) last season out of the 12 personnel with their two-headed attack of Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz. That pairing was targeted 222 times and combined for 146 receptions, over 1,500 yards, and 11 touchdowns.
Now, obviously comparing the Ravens offense to the Jets is like comparing apples to oranges. However, there are significant similarities with the Eagles, a team that found success in the passing game despite being bereft of talent at the wide receiver position last year.
Although Herndon and Griffin have similar builds, Herndon is considerably more athletic than Griffin, who measures in at 6-foot-6, 255 pounds. Herndon has the ability to stretch the field in a way Griffin cannot and is pegged as a better blocker. As seen in the video below, Herndon not only shows speed to get into the secondary but athleticism to highpoint the ball and come down with it over the defensive back.
What a catch by the rookie TE Chris Herndon #Jets pic.twitter.com/z5yRVZD7gW
— Matt O'Leary (@MattOLearyNY) October 14, 2018
But that’s not to say Griffin is an old man in the slow lane, as his speed in the open field is unexpected. The best example comes last season against the Jaguars as Griffin catches the pass from Darnold off a curl and scampers to the endzone.
The moves + the power.
Ryan Griffin's got both. pic.twitter.com/amIGQi3di4
— New York Jets (@nyjets) March 11, 2020
With the loss of a game-breaking deep ball threat in Robby Anderson, the Jets enter this season without someone who can truly take the top off the defense. Yes, the Jets drafted Denzel Mims in the second-round and signed Breshad Perriman.
With that said, it’s looking like New York’s offense might be more “dink-and-dunk” this season. Last season the Jets ran 64% of their plays out of the 11 personnel and 72% of plays included three receivers according to NFL.com.
Still, it would be in the Jets’ best interest to run more plays out of the 12 personnel, especially with two guys who are proven pass-catchers. Referencing the Eagles again, it might be wise for Adam Gase to look at some plays and schemes Doug Pederson uses in his offense to maximize the potential of the Herndon-Griffin tandem.
With an improved offensive line, it should also open up the running game, which in turn should do wonders for the Jets’ play-action attack. As we see below, the Jets do a great job of decoying Griffin in the play-action and he is completely wide open on the pass back.
Jets shortest gain of day was also the most creative. Nice play design by Adam Gase on Ryan Griffin’s 1-yard TD.
Looks like Sprint Right Option to Crowder. (Maybe would have gone to him if there was more daylight).
Griffin engages D-end b4 releasing. Good job by Darnold too pic.twitter.com/Zvp9P3tupl
— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaSports) November 25, 2019
It will be interesting to see who will emerge as TE1 on the depth chart when training camps open up. No matter who it is, I’d expect both to be featured prominently this upcoming season.