It’s not easy being Tre Herndon - at least to outside perception. Not only was he an undrafted free agent when he singed with the Jaguars in 2018, but he was forced into the team’s starting lineup quickly after disgruntled cornerback Jalen Ramsey forced himself away from the team in week three. Replacing a perennial Pro Bowler like Ramsey isn’t easy.
Heading into this season though, Herndon looks to make a big leap, with a - nearly - full season under his belt of learning the way gameday operates, how nuanced the cornerback position is, and what it takes to be a legitimate boundary corner in the NFL.
“I definitely feel like understanding that and then coming in my third year, second year starting, would be definitely a step for me,” Herndon said via video conference call with the local media on Saturday. “I feel like I’ll be a lot more comfortable knowing that I’ve been in these situations before.”
Last season, Herndon had highs and lows, as expected for a second year player, but he was able to hold his own better than maybe many would have thought. In 2019, Herndon allowed a passer rating of 79.0, according to Pro Football Focus, the 20th best in the NFL, while hauling in three interceptions and 13 pass breakups. For reference, the man he replaced last year, Ramsey, allowed a passer rating of 96.4 (47th overall).
Now, that’s not to say Herndon is a better cornerback than Ramsey; he doesn’t go up against the team’s No. 1 receivers, nor does he play the same way Ramsey does. Ramsey was also thrown into a situation in Los Angeles where he needed to take time to adapt. However, it should give a clearer picture of how he performed, giving a barometer to judge his third season as it moves forward in only a few short weeks.
“Now [I’m] just stepping on top of that, adding more with my technique, being more consistent, being more consistent in film study now that I have a year under my belt. Those are things that I’m working on in this camp.”
This will be the second season Herndon has been in the room with secondary (cornerbacks) coach Tim Walton, someone who Herndon says has been instrumental to his success on the gridiron. Oftentimes, Walton will give his cornerbacks a “pop quiz”, making sure everyone stays on their toes and studies as he expects out of each and every one.
“I’ve been able to get personal relationship with Coach (Walton). I’ve seen him a couple of times just one on one [and] we’ll talk,” Herndon said when asked about his relationship with coach Walton. “We just have that good connection. And then technique wise, one thing Walt does is he drills us.
“Keeping us on our toes all the time. With technique, he’s drilling us hard on those kind of things [and] the playbook. Walt [is] definitely going to grind us, but I feel like it all plans out at the end of the day. Walt has definitely been a huge influence on me as far as playing and also [having a] personal relationship.”
Walton feels good about where Herndon is at heading into year three. After getting valuable repetitions, he’s able to catch up to the speed of the game, not much will be new anymore, Walton said via video conference on Wednesday.
“Now, coming in this year, he’s more confident, he’s understanding things, he knows the different spots he needs to be at,” said Walton. “Now he can apply—and like I said, his personality is already business-like, he’s very mature, he’s very into his stuff. So with that experience that you have, and the work ethic and the maturity level and this approach, it’s nothing but an upside for him.”
Looking for big strides out of his third-year corner, Walton is already seeing the leadership traits come to life as he enters the year as the team’s second-most tenured cornerback within the team’s scheme to only D.J. Hayden. With so much youth at the position, Herndon’s leadership will be important.
“He has to be the guy that does that – him and DJ [Hayden] are the guys that kind of are the veteran guys in our room right now, as far as being in this system. So now he’s trying to take on that role, and trying to speak up more, and trying to show the young guys the ropes on how to do things.”
News and notes from Sunday’s practice:
- Light day. With a heavy day of practice on Saturday, today’s practice was extremely light by comparison. Only helmets and shells, the Jaguars went through the motions, working the majority of the 75-minute practice on technique, rather than live-game situations.
- Injury update: WR Dede Westbrook (shoulder), DL Taven Bryan (left knee, bone bruise), rookie CB CJ Henderson and rookie TE Tyler Davis (knee) all missed practice today. Westbrook has missed the last two days. Davis is expected back at practice tomorrow and CJ Henderson is expected back within the next two days.
- Herndon makes an impact. Herndon recorded his first interception of training camp today, making a leaping snag after second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew II threw into double coverage.
- DJ Chark Jr. goes deep again. Chark has become an oft-mentioned name around the Jaguars’ practice fields. With at least one deep reception a day, he and Minshew’s chemistry has developed as if 2019 ended just yesterday. He’s become entrenched as the team’s No. 1 receiver, perhaps for quite a long time.
- Laviska Shenault nearly has play-of-the-day. Late in practice, Shenault nearly came down with what looked to be a fantastic acrobatic catch near the back of the end zone on a pass from Minshew. However, with rookie CB Chris Claybrooks covering him, Shenault wasn’t able to haul the football in, in time, resulting in an incompletion (out of bounds).
- Defensive line works on rush moves. The Jaguars’ defensive line focused today primarily on rush moves and quarterback spy drills on the day in preparation for the season. First-round selection, K’Lavon Chaisson, was a full-go once again and worked together with the entire defensive line.