By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra – thenyextra.com
Pete Lammons, Rich Caster, and Jerome Barkum.
Beginning in the late 1960s, they were Jets’ high-profile tight end in their own rite.
Lammons –the Super Bowl team tight end — was your prototypical blocking tight end who would make an occasional catch.
Caster and Barkum both were future prodigies of the positon, both of whom had speed, large bodies, and the ability to get down field. They both also spent time as a wide receiver, and they were an effective duo in the mid-1970s.
Mickey Schuler came a bit later, and he accumulated the most receptions ever at the position. You can add Johnny Mitchell and Dustin Keller as recent consistent contributors.
Still..Jets and tight ends?
Realistically, though, it never has been a consistent option in the Jets’ offense through the years.
This season, head coach Adam Gase and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains have the talent to make the position a viable and productive arm of the offense. Gase employed a two tight end set in his Miami days.
Enter Chris Herndon and Ryan Griffin.
Chris Herndon burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2018 with 39 receptions and four touchdowns at a time when the Jets were looking for an answer among Eric Tomlinson, Neal Sterling and Jordan Leggett.
A chemistry with quarterback Sam Darnold obviously was developed.
However, the bubble suddenly popped. Herndon dealt with a four-game substance abuse suspension to begin 2019, then four more games gone with a hamstring, and finally a cracked rib to shelve the season.
Fortunately, the Jets found the solution in gritty, 30-year-old free agent Ryan Griffin, who fell out of favor with Houston after an arrest and was released. Griffin previously caught 136 balls with seven touchdowns over six seasons with the Texans.
With Herndon gone, Griffin was the tight end elixir for Darnold. He caught 34 passes and had a career five touchdowns, four of them in the red zone. He also developed a bond with Darnold until an ankle injury cut his season short in December. A month earlier, the Jets resigned Griffin to a three-year deal.
Now Gase and Loggains have a perfect one-two punch with a rising star and a seasoned veteran that can also open up the running game and ease some of the apprehensiveness around their wide receivers.
Herndon, who likely will get the lead role at the start of the season, is healthy and anxious to take the next step.
Gase also is expecting a big campaign from Herndon and referred to him as a “unicorn-type player”, who continues to train in Georgia. The head coach also realizes he has Griffin as an Ace.
“I wish it could’ve gone the opposite way, but for me, it was definitely a year where I was forced to sit down and really just learn,” said Herndon on the team’s website. “You use it as a learning experience — how quick one injury, one decision, how fast things can be taken from you. Also, just learn to appreciate those things because like they say, you never know how much you miss something until it’s gone. It was a big learning year for me, but I’m ready.”
So are the Jets. They have the potential of another dynamic two tight-end combination who can make life easier for Darnold this fall.