Chris Herndon, drafted in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft after 106 names were called before his, became one of the most productive Jets rookie tight ends in recent memory.
Through 16 games and 12 starts, Herndon nailed down 39 receptions for 502 yards. His four receiving touchdowns were second on the team and three of his scores came in Weeks 6-8, setting the Jets record for the longest touchdown streak for a rookie tight end.
“It was definitely a blessing. God gave me the ability to go out there and showcase that talent. This time last year I was not able to play,” said the 6’4”, 253-pound Herndon, who suffered an ACL injury in Miami’s regular-season finale at Pittsburgh in 2017. “So just simply being out there, being able to be on the field and compete at this level was truly a blessing to me and it meant a lot.”
The Miami product’s stellar performance ultimately led to him being named to the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team in mid-January.
“I knew who I was as a player, I knew what I could do. I knew I was confident in myself and once I got back on, I just let it show the best way I could on the field,” Herndon said of his expectations heading into his rookie year.
Second-year tight end Jordan Leggett, who suffered a knee injury and was placed on injured reserve in October 2017, recorded his first three career receptions and his first touchdown in Week 4 against Jacksonville. After his long rehab, Leggett finished 2018 with 14 receptions for 114 yards and that lone TD against the Jags.
Frequently praised by his coaches and teammates, the 6’6” 263-pound Eric Tomlinson continued to handle his blocking chores. He finished the year with eight receptions for 72 yards, and played a factor on special teams with four tackles. Tomlinson was placed on injured reserve before the final game of the season.
Neal Sterling went on IR in early November, but not before recording six receptions for 47 yards.. Former Raiders TE Clive Walford, who was with the Jets in training camp, re-signed with the team for the season finale at New England.
New head coach Adam Gase, expected to take over as the offensive playcaller, is known to tailor his schemes to the strengths of the players around him. That should bode well for the Jets tight ends, who were little-used as receivers in 2015 and '16 but emerged as more of a factor last season. This past season the position totaled five TD catches for the first time since 2014 and their 735 receiving yards were their most since 2013.
The Top Snapshots of Tight Ends During the 2018 Season
On the Roster in 2018
(Off—offensive snaps; ST—special teams snaps)
Potential Free Agents in 2019
Unrestricted: Neal Sterling, Clive Walford.