SAN DIEGO -- An undrafted rookie free agent out of Arkansas, receiver Javontee Herndon has raised some eyebrows among the San Diego Chargers coaching staff with his performance nearly three weeks into training camp.
Just ask Chargers receivers coach Fred Graves.
“I like what he’s doing,” Graves said. “The game’s not too big for him. Some guys come from college and the game is too big for them. And I’m not complaining about college offenses, but a lot of college offense are spread offenses and they don’t teach the guys the fundamentals.
“This kid, he understands what’s going on. And the biggest thing about him is, he’ll make a mistake and immediately correct it. So you’ll never see that same mistake.”
Herndon cut his teeth under two coaches at Arkansas familiar with pro-style offenses in Bobby Petrino and Bret Bielema, so the learning curve has not been as steep for the Jacksonville, Florida, native. A former quarterback in high school, Herndon also quickly picks up play concepts and route adjustments.
At 6-foot and 198 pounds, Herndon runs polished routes and has strong hands, which allows him to pull down more than his share of contested catches. He’s a physical blocker in the run game and can also serve as a return man with reliable hands. Working with the third unit, Herndon created a good rapport with backup quarterback Brad Sorensen.
“We’ve developed some chemistry together,” Sorensen said. “We’ve run with each other most days. He’s big, strong and makes plays. He’s a guy you can trust as a quarterback. You don’t always have to put it in a perfect spot, and he can go up and make plays for you. So he’s got a bright future.”
Added Herndon: “It’s always good to connect with quarterbacks. I try to talk with Philip (Rivers) and all of them as much as I can because if they are familiar with you, they’ll look for you. So me and Brad talk a lot. I talk to Philip every chance I get, just asking him what I need to do (on certain routes).”
Herndon finished with 31 receptions for 437 yards and four touchdowns in his final season at Arkansas -- solid but not spectacular numbers. He ran a 4.44-second 40-yard dash at his pro day and posted a 34-inch vertical jump, so he’s a good athlete.
Still, Herndon was surprised that his name was not called on draft day. He said he received some interest from the Chargers as a possible Day 3 draft pick and ultimately decided San Diego provided the best opportunity to make an NFL roster.
“You’ve got to make your mark somewhere,” he said. “I just want to put my name out there, let them know what I can do and hopefully build on that during the preseason.”