Larry Donnell – © USA TODAY Sports Images
For the first time this season, we introduce the Big Blue Breakdown. Throughout the course of the year, BBI’s Connor Hughes will be joined by Art Stapleton, Jordan Raanan, Patricia Traina and others tackling the hottest topics surrounding the New York Giants.
BBI is dedicated to giving you the best coverage of the Giants on the web. What better way to do that than bringing some of the team’s best beat writers together in one spot? With OTAs officially wrapped up, we asked the round table how they felt the Giants stand at the tight end position.
Have something you want discussed? Email your open-ended question to Connor Hughes ([email protected]) and it could be featured on the next Big Blue Breakdown.
QUESTION: While hyped quite a bit as a “position of need,” the Giants have done very little to address the tight end position. With a new offensive coordinator that appears to like to feature the position, do you believe the Giants made the correct decision not drafting or signing a tight end? Why?
CONNOR HUGHES/ Big Blue Interactive
Adrien Robinson – © USA TODAY Sports Images
The tight end position in the Giants’ offense is the great unknown. Since Jim Fassel was shown the door so many years ago, the TE for Big Blue has been little more than a safety valve for quarterback Eli Manning. There was no need for a Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Grahahm or even Jeremy Shockey, just someone who could block, had average hands and could get to position ‘A’ on field.
With new coordinator Ben McAdoo calling plays for the first time, it’s still up in the air to this point on how the Giants plan to use the tight end. Will it be a focal point of the offense? Will it be a blocker? If the goal is to utilize the position, I hardly feel confident in those presently on the roster.
Adrien Robinson has flashed, Larry Donnell too, but neither strike “fear” into the heart of a defender. Could Robinson develop? Sure. Could he end of getting injured again? Sure. Personally, I was and still am a fan of bringing Jermichael Finley in for at least a visit. After all, what do you have to lose?
ART STAPLETON/The Record
The tight end situation is a bit more complicated than just projecting the depth chart for 2014 and feeling good about where the Giants are at the position. The bottom line: tight end will not be what sinks this offense in 2014.
If two of the group including Robinson, Donnell, Davis, Fells or yes, Grimble, can be serviceable, the rebuilding done elsewhere on the offense (OL, WR with Beckham Jr., RB) should make up the slack. If not, they’ll mix and match with TEs to get the job done. I truly believe they would have upgraded TE with a draft pick – perhaps the second round – if things had played out differently.
When assessing center and TE, though, it’s pretty clear center is of greater importance – so instead of going with, say, Jace Amaro or Troy Niklas in that spot, they went with Weston Richburg, to whom I believe they are committed for the future. Once the Giants got into the fourth round and beyond, they’d decided to stick with the fourth-round pick that has already been in the building (Adrien Robinson) instead of drafting someone for the sake of having a new face. Under these circumstances, I think the Giants have done the right thing at tight end.
There are no quick fixes that have presented themselves at the position. We know the issues surrounding Jermichael Finley and Dustin Keller. Just look at the $ Finley will get from his insurance policy if he never plays again and realize he’ll likely be looking for more than a minimum-type deal. TE remains a position of need, but the impact has been overrated compared to upgrades that were needed elsewhere.
PATRICIA TRAINA/ Inside Football & Bleacher Report
Xavier Grimble – © USA TODAY Sports Images
Obviously, time will tell if the decision to pass on a tight end was the right one to make, but I can certainly understand their thought process.
Let me start first with the veteran free agent part. Other than Dennis Pitta (Ravens) and Jimmy Graham (Saints), both of whom were never realistic possibilities in free agency, who from the 2014 group of veteran free agents was really worth a look?
As for the tight ends already on the roster, particularly Adrien Robinson and Larry Donnell, the Giants know what they have in both of those guys, having seen them in practices. Yes, Robinson hasn’t shown much, but I’ll point out that last summer in camp, he was making progress to the point where he was supposed to have a big role in that final preseason game which of course had to be scrapped when he suffered the foot injury. Donnell? People forget that he missed all of last spring due to a broken foot, a factor that he recently told me put him way behind the curve.
Yes there is the classroom work, but as Tom Coughlin has said in the past (many times), you have to go out and practice what you’re learning in the classroom. So now you have two young tight ends with impressive physical tools and who now have a chance to learn a new offense from scratch. Both say they have a better understanding of what needs to be done as far as the little things (watching film, taking better care of their bodies, etc.) and who are HEALTHY.
In some ways, it’s like having rookies on the squad, except Donnell and Robinson have gone through NFL seasons and have a better idea of what to expect at this level.
Last point (apologies for the lengthy response, by the way). I researched just how frequently the tight ends have been used in the Packers’ offense over the last two seasons, using data from Pro Football Reference.
Last year, the Packers tight ends combined for 57 out of the 366 passes completed or 15.5%. In 2012, they combined for 76 receptions out of the 374 pass completions or 20.3 percent.
These stats suggest that the Packers tight ends haven’t been as predominantly featured in the passing game as some might believe. I suspect that with the Giants, McAdoo is going to place a heavier emphasis on getting the ball to the receivers in the passing game.
Obviously, injuries can alter those plans, but as I noted before the draft whenever I was asked about the possibility of them drafting tight end Eric Ebron, the last time the Giants had a tight end lead the team in receptions was Jeremy Shockey in 2006, when he had three more receptions (66) than Plaxico Burress (63) did.
By the way, that season, despite being the team leader in receptions, Shockey finished with 623 yards and was second in receiving touchdowns with seven (behind team leader Plaxico Burress who finished with 63 catches for 988 yards and 10 touchdowns.
JORDAN RAANAN/ NJ.com
If it were me, I’d have done anything possible to try and get a dynamic receiving tight end on this roster. Who cares if they can block? Does anyone care that Jimmy Graham can’t block? With the way the rules are nowadays, linebackers and safeties have no chance against big, athletic TEs. They are bigger weapons than ever. Three TEs finished in the Top 10 in TD receptions last season. Six finished with over 70 receptions. This Giants offense needs that type of weapon. They don’t have anything close right now. Maybe next year.