With the New York Giants reporting to camp in less than a month, BigBlueInteractive.com is breaking down each of the team’s positional groups from now until July 21.
POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Tight Ends
2013 YEAR IN REVIEW: During the 2013 offseason, the New York Giants decided not to pay big bucks in order to retain Martellus Bennett who signed with the Chicago Bears. To replace Bennett, the Giants signed free agent Brandon Myers from the Oakland Raiders. The undersized, slow, and not overly athletic Myers was a significant step down as a blocker and receiver. He finished 2013 with 47 catches for 522 yards and four touchdowns. The #2 tight end was again the hard-working, but physically unimpressive, Bear Pascoe, who had a grand total of 12 catches for 81 yards and no touchdowns. Much was expected of the physically-talented duo of Adrien Robinson and Larry Donnell. Neither developed and long-time tight end coach Mike Pope was fired at the end of the season. Robinson, who was drafted in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL Draft, was only active for two games as a rookie. He missed virtually all of the 2013 season with a foot injury he suffered in the preseason. When he did return in Week 16, he immediately sprained his knee. In two seasons, Robinson has played in three games and he has no career receptions. Donnell went undrafted and unsigned in 2011. The Giants signed him as a street free agent in March 2012 and Donnell spent 2012 on the team’s Practice Squad. Donnell made the 53-man roster in 2013 and was active for all 16 games, starting one contest. He finished the season with only three catches for 31 yards.
ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The Giants had no interest in bringing back Brandon Myers (now with Tampa Bay) and Bear Pascoe (now with Atlanta). Robinson and Donnell return. Publicly, the Giants said they wanted to add a tight end in the draft but there were only so many tight ends who they liked and they regarded Weston Richburg a better value in the second round. In the offseason, the Giants added free agent journeymen Daniel Fells (who has spent time with six other teams but didn’t play in 2013) and Kellen Davis (two other teams; 50 catches in six seasons), as well as undrafted rookie free agent Xavier Grimble (USC).
TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: Is there a legitimate starting-caliber tight end currently on this roster? If so, who is it? The pressure is on new tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride, Jr., who failed as a wide receivers coach in 2012-13 and whose last and only previous tight end coaching experience was with Georgetown University in 2006. Can he help do what Mike Pope was unable to do and that is get Robinson and Donnell to play better?
General Manager Jerry Reese hasn’t given up on the two youngsters. “We expect those two young guys (Robinson and Donnell) to come on, and they can be dynamic if we can get them going,” said Reese in June.
“I think we have a nice group there,” said new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo about the five tight ends currently on the roster. “We have big men in the room, I like the way they think about the game, I like the way they’re moving around on the field. When we get the pads on that’s when we’ll really know where we are.”
ON THE BUBBLE: Everyone. Anyone can become the starter and anyone can be cut.
FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Kevin Gilbride, Jr. on Adrien Robinson: “He’s working incredibly hard to learn. That’s something that, going in, just knowing him as a personality not as someone I’ve taught before, I didn’t know. He’s in there, he’s taking copious notes, he’s answering questions very well. What we need to do is we need to get him to be able to transition that onto the field. He’s made strides, there’s no doubt that he’s made strides but there needs to be a lot more. The more in detail we get with him, sometimes he loses some of the basics as far as the techniques are concerned and we’ve got to get some carry-over with it.”
Eric Kennedy – There isn’t anyone on this roster who currently will scare an opposing defense. But is there even another Jake Ballard type here?
Adrien Robinson has been a major disappointment, but some of that was outside of his control. A very green rookie on college team that rarely threw the football to the tight end, he was forced to miss OTAs his rookie season because of an NFL requirement prohibiting players from universities using trimesters from participating in those activities. Mike Pope said that really set him back. He flashed some last offseason before being sidelined for the entire season with injuries. But both Robinson and Donnell do have intriguing physical tools. They are both big, athletic, and can catch the football. If they have the necessary toughness and desire, and if they can be coached up with the proper technique (all big “ifs”), at the very least, they should become good blockers. Don’t discount Larry Donnell. He could really surprise.
Connor Hughes – Baring an injury, Adrien Robinson is set to have a big, big season in 2014. From what we’ve seen in the early goings from the Giants offense, the days of the tight end being a “safety valve” are far in the past. New coordinator Ben McAdoo wants to use them often and as a focal point of the offense, not an after thought. With that being said, Robinson’s skill set is one I believe perfectly suits what the team is attempting to accomplish. Robinson has size (6-4), speed and the athletic ability to stretch the field. Countless times throughout the Giants’ offseason conditioning program, the tight end flashed what he can do…he just needs to stay healthy. If he can’t? Larry Donnell will be waiting in the wings.
FINAL DEPTH CHART:
Connor Hughes – Adrien Robinson (1), Larry Donnell (2), Kellen Davis (3), Xavier Grimble (PS), Daniel Fells (Cut)