Second-year cornerback Tre Herndon has drawn the ire of some during his six-game stretch as the Jacksonville Jaguars starting cornerback, but on Sunday he showed everyone watching why the Jaguars coaching staff and locker room believe in him.
The former undrafted free agent out of Vanderbilt had the best game of his career in Jacksonville's 29-15 home win over the New York Jets, acting as a key cog in the defensive's dominating performance thanks to his two interceptions, the first two of his career.
With each of the two balls he picked off sitting tightly tucked away in his locker after the big win, Herndon spoke about what it meant for him, someone who had to fight and claw his way onto an NFL roster, to have the day he had.
“I give it all to God, man. God set me up in those opportunities and I was able to finish the play," Herndon said. "The D-line did a great job up front giving us opportunities in the back end. Coach put us in the right place, and I trusted my technique. It happened.”
Today's two-interception game came a few weeks after Herndon had what he thought was his first career interception overruled by referees during Jacksonville's Week 5 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
That play had been on Herndon's mind ever since, and he made sure to capitalize again when he had the chance. On Sunday, he got those chances.
“Yeah, the one in Carolina’s been haunting me when they took it away from us. I had to make sure I bounced back somehow," Herndon said.
Herndon has been frequently targeted by opposing offenses since he took a spot in the Jaguars' defense as a full-time starter once Jalen Ramsey stopped playing following Week 3, but he said Sunday that was this was a challenge he has grown to accept.
But even with offenses constantly targeting him over the last several weeks, Herndon's confidence never wavered. And maybe most importantly, neither did the confidence that the Jaguars' locker room or coaching staff had in Herndon.
They have constantly praised him in recent weeks, thus they all knew he was capable of having the game he had today. For some, Herndon's day may have been a surprise. But for those a part of the Jaguars team, they knew it was coming in due time.
“I’m happy for Tre. I told him, after the second one, you know, that’s how you face adversity – you don’t get everything you want," said cornerback A.J. Bouye, who also had an interception Sunday. "But, he played a hell of a game today. He had a tough job with WR Robby Anderson, so, he came in, showed up, didn’t let the bad plays get to him and he just kept playing.”
"When Tre got that first pick, I felt like I got the pick. That’s how it is, you know, on that back end, we just always want to see each other strive and be our best.”
Herndon's day was made a bit easier by a ferocious Jaguars pass rush that racked up eight sacks against Jets quarterback Sam Darnold Sunday. But as Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue said in the locker room, Herndon made their jobs easier simply by being himself.
"We had a guy that nobody would touch and came in here and had two picks, Tre, man that’s special right there. I’m just thankful to see guys like that be able to make plays and progress and get more comfortable within the game," he said.