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The Tightends

The Giants have a history of having those special tightends that make tough catches at crucial times during games. Do you remember players like Bob Tucker? Was that before your time? He was the First good Giants TE, after that everybody remembers Mark Bavaro, Howard Cross, Jeremy Shockey and most recently Kevin Boss and Jake Ballard. Who will step into that arena for the Giants this season and claim the honor. They are going to have to be tough, that’s what the Giants expect, blocking hard and making those catches at the most important time during a game with three or more defenders hanging on to you as you drag them for a first down. Is that player on the roster right now? The closest player there is has the best name for it, Bear.

The Giants do not use their tightends as a primary part of their pass catching corps yet expect them to perform as one when needed. The emphasis as we know is on blocking, to understand why is to understand their schemes. The Giants use a Zone blocking scheme and use their tightends as an integral part of that. It looks like the Giants are going more to zone schemes than ever before, in the past they mixed it up a bit, I will get to that when I review the offensive lineman. If the Giants meant to use their TEs in any other way they would have drafted the very talented Coby Fleener a pass catching oriented TE. Instead they signed the much bigger Bennett from the Cowboys, who is about the size of an offensive tackle and out weights Fleener by 40 pounds.

Reese has been looking for soft handed tightends that can block first and foremost, that’s why he drafted Robinson in 4th round of the 2012 draft. He could have used an early pick for one of the sure handed catch first tightends but they had questionable blocking ability. Reese went with a project he called the JPP of TEs because of his raw talent and blocking ability. Bottom line is the Giants need their TEs to block for their offense to be successful, catching the ball is not a priority yet the potential needs to be there to catch the ball. The only drafted TE which diverted from this was Travis Beckum who was supposed to be used as an H-back and not a traditional TE. I suspect the constant injuries to Beckum dictated this H-back package was never able to be incorporated into the Giants offense as originally envisioned by Reese, although maybe not Gilbride.

Ballard was let go on waivers and picked up by the Patriots as we all know. This surprised the Giants and does not make much sense. His knee injury was worse than thought and Ballard will take at least a year to heal. The rehab and the mental aspect of getting over this type of injury will add time to this. By the time he is ready to play his contract will have ended. Just why did Bill Belichick pick Ballard off waivers? I think because he’s a vindictive petty person, that’s why. If the Giants really want to resign him he will be available, once they see he is not coming back soon enough the Pats will probably let him go. I hope by than we have better options at TE. He did block well and catch the ball when he was asked to. I liked him at Ohio State and thought he was underutilized. Honestly he was open mostly because the defense did not pay much attention to him. You can see how slow footed he really was while running his routs, many times there was nobody covering him. He did make plays though and was an overachieving fan favorite, a typical Giants working class hero like Bear Pascoe. He was consistently good, never great and understood the offense, he his job well. Jake will be missed by the fans and the Giants as a team.

So here goes:

Travis Beckum- 6’3” 234 4 year vet. I’m sure he’s heavier than 234 now, more like about 245, he has put on some good solid muscle not bulk by hitting the weight room. He did not have the functional strength to take on defenders as a blocker. I think this was a draft pick by Reese to try and make Gilbride open his offensive up and go away from the pure power run game. The NFL offenses are evolving because of the rule changes, it is to a team’s advantage to have a pass first offense now. The talent level was there as a receiver, it was never envisioned for Beckum to be a traditional TE, he was supposed to be an H-back with a package developed for him. No matter what position he needed to learn to block especially as an H-back, the H-back has different blocking assignments though and does not take on many defensive lineman one on one, the Giants TEs do. As I mentioned before because of injuries this never materialized and he had to be used as a traditional TE when he did get snaps. Hopefully he’ll be healthy and able to be a second TE in dual TE formations to cause the mismatches he does on pass plays. He is effective as a receiver when used that way. It’s always been about his health, now he’s getting over a knee injury suffered in of all games the Super bowl. If he is ready to play he will be a great addition to the receiver/TE corps, he does help open the field up. It’s all about staying healthy although if some of these players develop his time as a Giants might be coming to an end.

Martellus Bennett- 6’6” 270(290) 5 year vet- Originally drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second round of the 2008 NFL draft. He started off poorly with the Giants coaching staff this off season as far as I read by being overweight and not in top shape. He missed time with hammy issues because of that according to reports. He disputes this though, maybe it’s just a head game the coaches are using to motive him, he does come off as a bit egotistical and maybe this is the coaching staff’s way of putting him in his place, who knows. At 290 pounds he said he’s bulked up, he is a huge man and can carry that weight, but can he be an effective TE at that weight, that is questionable. He did also mention he will work his weight down a bit and lean out, this is common for a lot of players who bulk up to gain strength in the off season, as long as his body FAT is low his weight should not a factor. I do remember Shockey saying the same thing and coming into camp looking HUGE, his biceps where gigantic, but he looked slow and sloppy on the field. His size and Bulk muscle made him inflexible possibly leading to some of his injuries. We’ll find out in camp and preseason whether it’s true and he is or is not in top shape. I’m sure he is penciled in as the starter, look out the Bear is right behind you Marty. Honestly Cowboy fans are happy to see him go, they did not like him, maybe sour grapes or they know something we don’t yet? I have seen buyer beware warnings from Dallas Cowboy fans. The Cowboys themselves did not seem interested in resigning him which is odd for a second round pick. Mike Pope has his work cut out for him.

Larry Donnell- 6’6” 269 1yr- Another huge TE brought in to compete, notice something here, the Giants are looking for big TEs that are pure block first players to help the run game yet have good hands and can develop as receivers, but it’s block first. He was a former QB and played TE at Grambling where he showed a lot of promise. He’s over 6’6”, if he can improve he might turn out to be an excellent TE or at least a good backup, the ability is there. Kind of slow footed with a 4.91 40 at his 2011 proday the same goes for the UDFA Ballard who worked hard and eventually excelled as we all know. The Giants have high hopes for him and signed him to a nice contract so Reese quietly has hopes of developing this player. I’ll be watching for him, I have a feeling he might be a gem that needs some polishing. He could turn out to be a great redzone target.

Christian Hopkins- 6’5” 275 1 yr vet- Proday was in 2008, he was close to 6’5”, 270 pounds and ran a very good for that size 4.78 40, however he only did 19 reps on the bench. The Giants staff has been working with this talented player who might be ready to see some playing time. Jerry Reese is also high on him, he’ll get his chance. He has good natural size and I hope he has hit the weight room to get stronger and learned proper blocking technique. From what I can see he can catch the ball, he did in college. He might be a bit of a sleeper. I don’t yet know what he did from 2008 to 2011 when the Giants signed him. We’ll find out soon if he can play. Update he was with the UFL Omaha team for that time or some of that time.

Bear Pascoe-6’5” 283 4 yr vet – He was drafted in the 6th round of the 2009 draft by the San Francisco 49ers and cut because he was too slow, the Giants picked him up and put him on their practice squad. On his proday he ran a pretty good 4.89 40 but only put up 14 reps on the bench, I’m sure he has gotten much stronger since then. Bear is a lunch pail type player, blue collar overachiever who gives 100%. Limited talent wise yes, but you need guys like this, they make up the core and heart of a winning team. He can play H-back/FB/TE and does it well enough to be in the NFL. He’s just not a starter, he’s an indispensable backup. If Bennett does not catch on fast enough Bear will be the starting TE by the beginning of the season. Eli likes him and he just does his job, a true Giants type player, someone else’s castoff that proves themselves with the Giants. He may be the starter for the whole season if he progresses enough and shows consistency which is a big issue with the Giants coaches. You don’t have to be great just be consistently good that’s what makes a solid NFL pro and the Giants have been successful with these type of players under Coach Coughlin. It’s amazing he was too slow for the Niners but fine with the super bowl winning Giants. I guess the saying “one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure” is so true.

Ryan Purvis – 6’4” 260 3 yr vet- He had a good career at Boston College until Matt Ryan left, the whole offense suffered as did Purvis. He was a UDFA signed by the Tampa Bay Bucs in 2009 and was a final cut in 2011, picked up by the Giants in 2012. During that time I have read he really worked hard to improve his game. Good size and known for his hands, he’s slow footed running a 4.95 40 at his 2009 proday and put up only 19 reps on the bench. So as a NFL player there was much room for improvement which according to the Bucs he did, so why cut him? The talent is there as he beat out a few TEs the Giants brought in to compete for a spot at that time. He has his work cut out for him to make the roster and see any playing time.

Adrien Robinson – 6’4” 264 rookie – You can see the great athletic ability of this young player. He’s very raw technically and in terms of the way he looks on a football field. It will take a lot of reps to get him to be a consistent player. No question the talent is there as is the desire, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, it might take a few seasons. Although there is always the chance he will not develop into the player the Giants and Jerry Reese originally hoped he can, that happens to the best of prospects. He missed some time at OTAs to graduate college, that set him back a little. No big deal I don’t think he will get much playing time other than special teams. It’s Bennett and Bear penciled in for the starting roster with this kid taking that third spot. I wonder how many tightends the Giants will carry on the roster when and if Beckum gets healthy.

It looks like the Giants are hoping worst case scenario at least they have some tightends that can block to help the running game which was terrible during the 2011 season. The wide receivers and running backs will take up the slack in the passing game. Some of the TEs are not that far away from being the size of offensive lineman so it will be like having 6 Olineman up front. It would be nice if at critical times they can at least pickup a first down by finding a seam and catching the ball. None of these players are something the defenses are going to worry about in pass coverage, they will be more concerned with the receivers and Hynoski who has proved to be a very good receiving FB. This could work out well by sliding the TE into a pass pattern for those critical times when a defense is shutting down your offense and you need a first down to keep a drive going. It will be interesting to watch this group compete for roster positions this pre-season.

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12 Responses to “The Tightends”

  1. ArthuroMolenda says:

    Beckum is done for the Giants, and most likely the NFL. Unless some crazy event happening, he’ll get his 40 snaps, 2 targets and 1 catch this season and be let go next february.

    Another bad pick in an overall very average 2009 draft (Nicks might be the only one getting a second contract).

    Bennett will need to get his head straight. Dallas fans were happy to see him go because he came through as lazy, not working, hopping his talent and 2nd rounder status will do the trick.
    He appeared to not care much about catching balls, which is weird and most likely very rare amongst TE today. He transforms himself in a beast when blocking time comes though.
    It might be enough for us, but if he doesn’t start to be serious about football, start looking at it like a tough job instead of a cool way of getting lots of money, he’ll have a tough time in NY.

    Pope made Ballard, a less talented guy, into an fine albeit inconsistent TE in the passing game (I never agreed that 85 and 86 were even ok run blockers though). I’m anxious to see what Bennett will bring.

    Pascoe I’m fine with as a bakcup. Obviously I’d rather have a stud, but he can catch and pass block (do we use him on screens ? could be interesting). He can’t run block though, but nobody could last season on the OL so it can’t be making his job any easier.

    I don’t know the first thing about the others.

    Purvis, Hopkins and Donnell look like camp fodder from what you wrote, maybe one of them could make it to the Practice Squad ?

    Robinson I’m excited about. Reese is not the guy who’s gonna go out there and sing praises about player, so calling him “JPP of tight ends” was really surprising to me. And exciting too.

    We carried 2 TE into the season last year but pretended Pascoe was a FB so really that’s 3.

    As of right now, I’d pick Bennett, Beckum, Robinson to make the 53.
    I wish they would cut Beckum right now but don’t think they will. Robinson is a project 4th rounder with upside, they’ll want to keep him. And Bennett, well, I want to believe.

  2. ArthuroMolenda says:

    Not TE related but I just read Cruz ITW …

    “Those guys [Randle, Jernigan] have to be ready so it’s kind of double-duty, making sure I’m good to go, making sure I’m sharp and making sure the younger guys are getting in the playbooks.”

    This guy is a UDFA in his second year and he’s making sure 3rd round picks from 2010/11 are getting the playbook.

    I love it.

    He also sound pretty cool about his contract and all the money aspects of things.
    If he repeats, something I clearly believe he will (not 1500y, sure, but 1200y or so), we’ll need some cap room to pay him. He’ll be a RFA but I can’t imagine the Giants letting him negotiate with other teams because one cap capable franchise we’ll make an offer we can’t match. Although I thought the same thing of Mike Wallace and he’s still in PIT …

  3. SonGod says:

    I’m not sure how much it matters having a good TE is going to do in the Gilbride system. Kevin Gilbride, like him or hate him, has never really utilized TEs in his offenses going back years and years.

    In fact, in Houston, he didn’t use TEs, period. San Diego was to short a stop to really judge, but in Jacksonville and Buffalo, he didn’t seem keen on using TEs as receivers, and with the Giants, well, just ask Shockey about how Gilbride uses TEs.

    I vaguely remember some offhand quote Gilbride had in the 90’s when he was with Houston about TEs, I don’t remember the exact wording, but do remember it was derogatory towards the position (he made it clear that he preferred WRs to TEs when it came to who he would rather have catching the ball, and he didn’t even seem big on the idea of TEs as blockers saying something about he would be better off just using extra linemen……This was back in the 90’s, when TEs were already viewed as blockers first, and he was low on them back then) and he was clear about how his offense worked.

    While I am sure he has evolved his system since then (and note, he hasn’t used a run and shoot offense since then) he still kept the overall philosophy and concepts in this hybrid collaborative scheme that him and Tom Coughlin (whose was a WR coach and at times QB coach) have put together. Getting a real offensive weapon as a TE might not change a whole lot, not unless Gilbride is willing to change his offense to better utilities TEs and I have not seen nor heard anything that suggests he is.

    • Big Daddy says:

      Exactly, one reason I dislike Gilbride and his system. I like a block first TE but I believe a good pass catching one can make a huge difference in how an offense can be more efficient moving the chains and in the redzone. But the TE must block first and at a high level, that’s why I prefer taller, heavier players there.

      • SonGod says:

        I totally agree, on everything. I hate to feel hopeless though, but I honestly don’t see productivity improving for TEs, regardless of Talent in the Glibride system, he prefers to use TEs pretty much strictly as blockers only (and that seems forced on him, as he would probably just use linemen outright if he had his own way).

        His view, back in the 90’s was that every pass thrown to a TE was a pass that could have been thrown to a WR, and that passes thrown to WRs are either more likely to be caught or more likely to result in a big play (based on the way he was scheming it). He has ALWAYS viewed TEs as being for more limited then WRs in what he wants them to do (and has said as much earlier in his career).

        Personally, unless the Giants do something, this kid they are going to develop, may wind up being a block first, block second, and come out of the game type, and that would be a shame. He also has never liked the H’Back concept either, though Tom Couglin doesn’t seem to hold the same animus towards it.

        FWIW, Gilbride, at heart, is really a spread guy, he likes to use at least 3 (and if he could, 4) WRs, and one running back (he is also not a big fan of FBs). In a sense, its like the Giants modified his system, and forced him into a box, which is why some of his plays calls are at times out there.

        What, I personally don’t understand, and have never understood, is why Gilbride, someone who loves tall wide receivers when he can get them (and usually wants them), doesn’t feel any kind of affinity for tall TEs who can do many of the same things that he wants a tall WR to do (and in some cases, more).

        • Big Daddy says:

          I think you hit the points perfectly.

          I always disliked Gilbride, his schemes and play calls even before he was a Giants.

          • SonGod says:

            I can’t say I dislike him (nor prefer him), I’m mixed on Gilbride, I think he is an improvement over the previous idiot we had, John Hufnagel, who never should have been hired in the first place, was a disaster as a coordinator, and would have ruined Eli if he hadn’t been booted (personally, I think he set Eli back by 2 years) but some people did actually like him. Gilbride was the QB coach at the time, which really was the wrong position for him. Ernie Accorsis feeling on Hufnagel pretty much mirror my own.

            After booting Hufnagel (good riddance), Gilbride did a adequate job, but to be honest, Gilbride does not really fit the Giants, he doesn’t fit this team, he’s a spread guy, he likes the run and shoot, or at least the 3 wide set, he is NOT big on even running the ball (for some stupid reason, the media thinks it funny and something to laugh about that it takes Tom Coughlin to argue for balance and Eli has to push to run the ball more, I think its disturbing). Tom Coughlin has to play the voice of reason in this offense.

            Personally, I do give Glibride some credit, in that its better for a QB to get comfortable in a system, and have a steady consistent system and scheme to work under and develop in. I just don’t think Gilbride is the best choice right now, and would have preferred if the Giants groomed or developed or looked to someone else to be the Offensive Coordinator, who would go more with a personnel based play calling system with a “feed the studs” mentality and emphasized talent over scheme.

            I’m not optimistic though on that happening, but I also don’t think its best to rip out and install a new system either, Its a quandary that I honestly have no solution for, BTW, its worth noting that even though Kevin Glibride has worked with Couglin for many many years going back to Jacksonville, Tom Couglin still says the best play caller he ever coached with was Bobby Petrino, who only coached with Coughlin for a couple of seasons.

  4. ArthuroMolenda says:

    Seriously who cares about running the ball ? It’s not 1973.

    Obviously 3.2 ypc isn’t enough but having a great running game won’t get you rings …

    In the last 4 years we’ve had a top 10 offense while we play outside in the NE. Our QB just had the 6th best passing season in that system.

    If we’d had an defense as good as the offense over those 4 years we would have dominated the NFC … (btw, in 08, we did).

    • SonGod says:

      You run the ball for a variety of reasons, you run it so you can set up the play action, you run so you can keep the other team from blitzing the hell out of your QB, and you run it to kill the clock at the end of the game, you also run it in short yardage situations when its more efficient then passing and you run when you want to wear down another teams defense by the 4th quarter (which helps set up those 4th quarter comebacks if need be). You also run the ball so you can keep your defense off the field and not tire them out or expose them.

      If you want to keep your Qb alive, you need to run the ball, as the adage goes, you only go as far as your QB, and if your QB is on a stretcher, you ain’t going far.

      I’m not saying the Giants should not throw the ball, far from it, I am saying that you need to have an efficient offense, that has balance and that protects your QB and also allow him to set up play action passes along with protecting the defense. That stupid draw play that I’ve nicknamed the “pre punt play” does none of this………God, I hate that play, I wish I could find that page in the playbook and burn it.

      Tom Coughlin has preached balance for years, and Gilbride has never really believed in it (he jokes about this), even Eli Manning wanted more balance. Piling up yardage is a lot easier when your trailing and you have no choice but to pass to catch up (Eli can write a book at this point about having to do this). If your going into the 4th quarter constantly trailing and you need to pass to catch up, then the other team can make easy adjustments from using the wide 9 technique to blitzing or both. Eli is tough, Eli is not bullet proof (consecutive game streak not withstanding).

      Also, if you want to run a pass happy offense (and again, I am not saying lets go ground chuck), using your TE as a receiver can and does go a long way. Not using him, is reducing your options and opportunities and makes your offense inefficient.

    • ArthuroMolenda says:

      Just realised that we had a great rushing attack in 08 which totally contradicts what I was saying ^^

  5. Big Daddy says:

    I think boxing and football are a lot alike in many ways. The best fighters are boxer punchers, they are skilled as boxers in the sweet science but have enough power in their punches to knockout an opponent. Being smart they wear the opponent down, slip their punches while landing their own. When the time is right the boxer unleashes his onslaught but not until then.

    He can move with grace and hit hard. Years ago there where many great boxer punchers, like Sugar Ray Robinson for instance.

    That’s how you want your offense to be. You want to grind it out score a few points and take what the defense gives you so you do not turn the ball over by taking chances. The idea is not to let the game get out of hand.

    I have seen too many Giants games where that happens and Eli Manning saves the day by winning the game in the 4th quarter. It doesn’t always work and it has happened too many times because of the overly conservative and unimaginative play calling of Gilbride.

    Score some points, do it early. Like a boxer take the heart out of the opponent and finish him off fast. Pile on some points early and make them try to catch up. That’s why a balanced offense works well, but a more pass orientated offense works better. You score more points faster and force the other team to catch up. If you have a good defense it lets them remain aggressive throughout the game and able to gamble a little. This lead to turnovers and the team that turnsover the ball usually loses.

    I’m not saying abandon the running game, on the contrary. I’m saying balance it but more toward passing. If you have a big lead grind it out on the ground, not if you have a 3 point lead. If you are a pure passing team it’s hard to do that. That’s why I like being able to do both, it gives you more flexibility. If by any chance you lose the lead having a passing game makes it easier to make that comeback.

    I’d like to see the Giants now with all their weapons open it up a bit. Not give up on the run but score some points and keep scoring. Not get conservative and let teams back in the game. If you got a team on the ropes knock them out and that’s something the Giants can do if the coaches would let them.

    • SonGod says:

      I agree with you whole heartedly.

      I see the running game as a tool for many purposes, but here is the thing that bugs me with Gilbride (and not to turn this into a Gilbride bashing session). Its not that he is to conservative or that he is to pass happy, but its that he is to bizarre at times.

      3rd and 15, he’ll run that god damn stupid draw play aka “the pre punt play” that fools no one, and 3rd and inches, he’ll go spread and try to throw the ball deep.

      Either he wants to run the ball when the running game isn’t there or there are 8 men in the box, or he abandons it quickly and tries passing non stop, even when the other team is blitzing play after play or in dime formations. He’ll go run heavy when trailing and pass heavy when leading, a lot of times its illogical. This is what I mean when I say he seems forced to coach in a box. He doesn’t naturally like to run the ball, if he is going to do it, he treats it like a stat quota system. His play calling on runs seems and feels forced because it is forced. However, if left to his own devices, he would go pass happy in all the worst times (For more info, look at his career in Houston and look at why Bills fans wanted to tar and feather him when he was in Buffalo before running him out of town).

      There are a lot of good reasons to run the ball, the key is to run the ball for those reasons, not to run just to meet some magical quota system so that you can keep Tom Coughlin from complaining that he wants a balanced offense. Coughlin wants a slightly more pass oriented balanced attack, that is aggressive and uses the runs for a variety of reasons which should result in a stronger passing game. Gilbride has a totally different philosophy (for that matter so does Jerry Reese who actually also likes the idea of using tight ends as more then just glorified blockers). Sadly, I don’t see much change coming in the system or play calling, but at lease with Coach TC there, you have a good voice of reason and editor to control or at least guide the offense away from many extremities that it tends to occasionally veer off in.

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