Chris Herndon is starting to make the tough plays look easy, while seeking to end his strong rookie season on a high note.
Take, for example, the 22-year-old tight end’s spectacular one-handed catch against the Packers last Sunday.
The one-hander, on which he went full extension to haul in Sam Darnold’s pass while narrowly avoiding a big hit from safety Josh Jones, picked up a crucial 15-yard gain for the Jets late in the first quarter.
“I really made it harder on myself,” Herndon, who finished with six catches for a career-high 82 yards and a touchdown in Gang Green’s overtime loss to Green Bay, told The Post following Thursday’s practice. “I should’ve come out of the break [on my route] and just kept going. But I came out of it slow and kind of paused a little bit and then I just kind of reacted to how the ball was thrown.”
Regardless, it was some kind of highlight.
“It’s really tough because you don’t really know what’s going to happen,” Herndon said. “You reach one hand out and just try to make a play and try to make it happen.”
Herndon has made it happen plenty since being taken by the Jets in the fourth round of the 2018 draft out of Miami. He enters Sunday’s season finale against the Patriots with 38 catches for 494 yards and four touchdowns.
“He continues to play fast, he continues to grow. Good football player,” Jets offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates said of Herndon. “He has a look in his eye, he’s an intense competitor every day. He can run the whole route tree. He’s exciting to watch. He loves the game, he studies and he prepares and always goes out on Sunday and gives his best.”
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“It just goes to show that I’m working hard every week and taking my job seriously,” Herndon said.
The scouting website Pro Football Focus grades Herndon (75.9) as the best rookie tight end in the NFL — and fifth-best in the league behind only George Kittle (88.4), Travis Kelce (88.3), Jared Cook (77.3) and Zach Ertz (77.2).
Asked to evaluate himself so far as a pro, Herndon told The Post: “I feel like it’s been pretty good. The speed of the game was my biggest adjustment, but I definitely came in and made some progress from college to the NFL.
“It’s a blessing to be in this position to make some of the plays that I’ve been able to make. And going into the offseason I just want to work on watching film of myself and fixing what I think I can improve — specifically blocking — and then come into next season with some momentum.”
Herndon said he looks up to elite tight ends such as Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates.
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“They just exemplify a complete tight end,” Herndon said. “They can block, they can catch, they can make plays on the ball and they’re really professional.”
In establishing a strong connection with fellow rookie Darnold, Herndon has put himself in position to be a key building block for the rebuilding Jets. But he still wants to take care of business Sunday against the mighty Patriots and finish out his first season strong.
“We always go into every game expecting to win,” Herndon said. “We don’t care who we’re playing against. We prepare and gameplan to win, no matter who we’re playing.”