2021 New York Jets Preview: Tight Ends

Jets Tight Ends

For years, New York Jets fans have been waiting for the tight end position to become relevant again. There have been times where it has seemed things might change for the better, say Austin Seferian-Jenkins or rookie year Chris Herndon. Nevertheless, the Jets have yet to have a reliable weapon at the position since Dustin Keller. To put that into perspective, Keller last played for the Jets in 2012.

Luckily, the new Jets offensive coordinator has plenty of experience working with prominent tight ends. Mike LaFleur comes to the Jets with Robert Saleh from the San Francisco 49ers. Those being the same 49ers who rejuvenated Jordan Reed, in addition to having George Kittle, who is easily a top-two player at tight end.

This season, LaFleur is expected to implement a similar outside zone run/play-action-heavy system to the one he coached with the 49ers. Therefore, giving reason to believe tight ends will be utilized more than in recent years. Here is the outlook on the Jets tight ends in 2021…

2021 New York Jets Preview: Tight Ends

The Starters: Chris Herndon

The Good

As previously mentioned, Herndon has shown promise in the past. Back in his rookie year in 2018, Herndon started 12 of 16 games, hauling in four touchdowns on 39 receptions for 502 yards. Herndon gave the Jets hope with his performance, especially given his strong finish to the season.

Unfortunately, the last two years have gone a completely different route. However, that does not mean the talent is not there. A fourth-round pick out of Miami, Herndon’s 6’4” and 253-pound frame make him a capable blocker and promising receiver. It is only a matter of piecing it all together. Hopefully, with LaFleur’s help, he can do that and become a difference-maker for rookie quarterback Zach Wilson.

The Bad

After his rookie year, things have gone downhill for Herndon. His off-the-field issues became a distraction and his injury concerns from college lingered into the pros. If Herndon is going to turn things around, he needs to stay healthy and focus on his game-to-game performance. This past season Herndon struggled with drops, something he must work on to keep his starting job. Expect Herndon to have a short leash to start the year.

The Backups: Tyler Kroft, Trevon Wesco

One of the biggest reasons why Herndon will have a short leash is because of Tyler Kroft’s presence. The 28-year-old tight end comes to New York after having spent the past two seasons with the Buffalo Bills. Like Herndon, Kroft has dealt with his fair share of injury issues, given he has not played more than 11 games since 2017. Then again, Kroft provides the Jets with their best blocker and a big red zone threat.

Standing at 6’6” and 252-pounds, Kroft is the tallest weapon in the passing game. Of his 85 career receptions, 12 of them are touchdowns. His career year in 2017 included seven touchdowns on 42 grabs. Whether or not he ends up starting, Kroft will have a regular role in the Jets offense in 2021.

The same can be said about Trevon Wesco as he enters his third year. To date, the West Virginia product has been a big disappointment, with three career receptions. Wesco has not worked out as the uber-versatile tight end like the Jets hoped he would, but it is time for a change. The Jets were unable to land Kyle Juszczyk in free agency, leaving Wesco as their fullback. Like Juszczyk, Wesco will be a versatile fullback who will line up everywhere, being able to run, catch, and block. With his 6’3” and 267-pound frame, it may wind up being the perfect role for Wesco to make an impact on the game.

The Bubble: Ryan Griffin, Daniel Brown, Kenny Yeboah

This is where things will get interesting. Ryan Griffin was fantastic in 2019 but was a forgotten man last season. This could be due to his ankle injury that required surgery following that season, as he simply did not look the same afterward. If he cannot bounce back to form, his roster spot will be up for grabs.

If that is the case, the Jets will turn to either Daniel Brown or Kenny Yeboah. Brown has spent the previous two seasons with the Jets, racking up nine receptions for 103 yards. He has primarily been used as a special team player and blocker. Yeboah is a completely different player compared to Brown, as the best aspect of his game comes as a receiver. At 6’4” and 240-pounds, Yeboah is not going to bully any defender but could make them miss in space. At the very least, the Ole Miss product has a very strong outlook to make the practice squad.

Final Tight Ends Analysis

Another year and still fans are waiting for a definitive answer at tight end. One can hope Herndon can turn it around all they want or that Kroft can make some plays, but the Jets do not have a Kittle on their roster. This season will go a long way to figuring out the future of this position, as either one of these players can step up and make things interesting.

Stay tuned for the next article in the 2021 New York Jets Preview series with offensive tackles!

2021 New York Jets Preview Series: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers

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