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2014 New York Giants Training Camp Preview: Tight Ends

July 15th, 2014 at 3:00 PM
By Dan Benton

With the offseason workout program now a thing of the past and the official start to training camp coming up on July 21st (report date and physicals), it's time to look ahead to each positional battle and how they will ultimately shape the New York Giants' final 53-man roster. Today we examine the tight ends.

TIGHT ENDS

Who's in: Xavier Grimble, Daniel Fells, Kellen Davis
Who's out: Bear Pascoe, Brandon Myers
The Names: Adrien Robinson, Larry Donnell, Xavier Grimble, Daniel Fells, Kellen Davis

WHO ARE THESE GUYS?

Fans from across the league, and even casual fans of the New York Giants, could take a look at the team's current tight end depth chart and not recognize a single name. That alone should be enough to feel some empathy for Kevin Gilbride Jr., who will take over coaching the tight ends in 2014, replacing the well-respected Mike Pope, who now calls Dallas home.

“It's fully open right now to all five guys,” Gilbride Jr. has said. “Whoever can step in and play the role the best way, that is the way we need to go. We're not worried about who was drafted where, who was just signed in the offseason, who is a rookie. None of that matters."

The problem for the Giants is that with their offseason program now complete, none of their five tight ends have stepped up and separated themselves from the pack. And while Adrien Robinson did flash some impressive athleticism during Organized Team Activities (OTAs), that's been a common trend over his first three years in the league. Unfortunately, due to a variety of injury issues, he's been able to play in only three regular season games — including a Week 16 game a year ago in which he suffered a season-ending knee injury on the opening kickoff. It was his only play of the season after missing the first 15 weeks with a foot injury.

Like quarterback Ryan Nassib however, General Manager Jerry Reese and the coaches are giving Robinson — who has been dubbed "The JPP of tight ends" — every opportunity possible to not only earn more playing time, but to win the starting job outright.

"We've got these two — Larry Donnell and Adrien Robinson — this will be their third year in the program and we expect great things from them," Tom Coughlin said. "They've looked very good. From that standpoint, I feel very good about it."

Despite many of the supportive comments, the Giants have never seemed entirely sold on what they've got. Accordingly, they've brought in free agents Daniel Fells, Kellen Davis and undrafted rookie Xavier Grimble, but none of the three are a sure bet to make the team or solidify the position. It's for that reason the team has continued to examine potential free agent options like Jermichael Finley, who has since been passed on, and potential trade options like Arizona Cardinals tight end Rob Housler.

Of the newest crop, it's actually journeyman Daniel Fells who brings in the most experience, having played in 71 career games (fewer than Davis, but a higher snap %) dating back to his rookie season of 2008 with the St. Louis Rams.

Career Stats: Tight End Comparison
 GPRECYDSAVGTDFML LST
Adrien Robinson300000
Kellen Davis795056111.2121
Daniel Fells71921,08611.882
Larry Donnell1633110.300
Xavier Grimble*356973010.6112

*College stats

Because of the complete lack of certainty surrounding these five tight ends, each understand it's an open competition and a clean slate for all — especially in a brand new offensive system. And while all have found motivation in the opportunity being presented to them, others, like rookie Xavier Grimble, have taken it one step further and are not only looking to earn the starting job, but become a long-term solution for Big Blue.

"While I was at USC, I think that was one thing we always focused on, was being an all-around tight end, which seems to be sometimes lost in the game," said Grimble, who has spent a lot of time studying Mark Bavaro this offseason. "I want to be the guy who can block and catch passes, have an all-around game."

STARTER STILL NOT ON ROSTER?

The question that will soon need an answer is: "do the Giants have a legitimate starting tight end on the roster?" And not just a pass-catching tight end or a block-first tight end, but a legitimate double-duty tight end who can grasp the system and contribute in every aspect. The problem is there's really been no indication that they do and little else was learned during non-contact practices.

“I think we have a nice group there,” offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said. “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.”

Tom Coughlin, Ben McAdoo & Co. are going to have to learn an awful lot about these players and make a determination on their future in a very short amount of time. It's a key position in the West Coast-style system being brought in — so much so that the tight ends believe they may be Eli Manning's No. 1 target often — and the keys can't be handed off without a certain level of trust.

"The role of the tight end is to get the ball. I mean, we're a big part of this offense," Donnell said. "It's not like we're option No. 3 or option No. 2, we're option No. 1 most of the time. We have a lot of designed plays [for the tight end] to get the ball and make plays."

Size: Tight End Comparison
 HeightWeightAge
Adrien Robinson6'4''26425
Kellen Davis6'7''26528
Daniel Fells6'4''26030
Larry Donnell6'6''26525
Xavier Grimble*6'4''25721

If the Giants are unable to eventually say "yes, we do have a double-duty starter on the roster" then it becomes a waiting game. As team's begin to trim down their rosters, Jerry Reese will be forced to pick from the scrap heap and cross his fingers that whoever he brings in is better than what the team already has.

EARLY PROJECTIONS

Projected Starter: Kellen Davis
Additional Depth: Adrien Robinson, Daniel Fells, Xavier Grimble (practice squad)

Also…

Tags: Adrien Robinson, Bear Pascoe, Brandon Myers, Daniel Fells, Football, Kellen Davis, Larry Donnell, New York, New York Giants, NFL, Xavier Grimble

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13 Responses to “2014 New York Giants Training Camp Preview: Tight Ends”

  1.  kujo says:

    New York Giants Training Camp Preview: Tight Ends

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi8rrnecBaE

    •  skinnydoogan says:

      Pretty well sums it up Kujo, good analysis on the RB’s too, couldn’t agree more. We have had the rug pulled out from underneath us too many times to get too excited, especially with the TE’s, the two alleged front runners have horrific stats.

  2.  GOAT56 says:

    In this offense I don’t see Davis being the starter. I think Robinson will be given the chance to sink or swim as the starter. And I just don’t see the point of keeping Fells and Davis. I think we keep Donnell or Quarles as of other TE. So Robinson, Davis or fells and Donnell or Quarles. I’m going with Donnell and Fells based on F55 and what I have read. Quarles to PS.

    • Dan BentonDan Benton says:

      Quarles? I assume you’re thinking of Grimble? Kelcy Quarles another solid UDFA though. Will have more on him during those previews.

      But the reason for Davis: Can catch, a good blocker and a huge target for Eli Manning. That said, I feel “starter” at tight end will soon be similar to saying “starter at free safety.” Certain position on the Giants have that term lose some meaning and this will likely be the same with the tight ends in 2014. Likely to see a lot of double TE sets, mixing and matching, etc.

      •  GOAT56 says:

        Wow! Yeah that’s who I meant. I guess it’s preseason for all of us. I think both will be on the PS.

        Davis’ catching has been an issue though. I remember Bear fans complaining about his hands. He looks the part but has had trouble producing.

  3.  fanfor55years says:

    I think Grimble has a real shot. He’s bright and fits the mold. And if they keep Robinson and Fells they might want a youngster getting experience in the offense so they have a backup plan if they cannot retain one or more of the other two.

  4.  Krow says:

    JAGs and unknowns. There’s no data here to make any sort of reasoned prediction.

    •  BBWC says:

      I agree…. you can’t really make a reasonable prediction with this bunch. All we really have to go on is what TC said, “We’ve got these two — Larry Donnell and Adrien Robinson — this will be their third year in the program and we expect great things from them,” Tom Coughlin said. “They’ve looked very good. From that standpoint, I feel very good about it.”
      With that being said, I suspect TC expects one of those two to step up and win the starting job. I’m going with Larry Donnell, I like his size and the fact that he has shown enough to stick around the last two years even though he was undrafted. Hopefully he’s ready to go.
      As far as Robinson goes, we will see his best effort this year simply because it’s a make or break year for him. Whether or not it will be good enough remains to be seen.

  5.  Nosh.0 says:

    Our TE’S will be fine. Especially when you remember that Tight End is the most overrated position in football, and, a bottom 5 position when it comes to importance of winning.

    For all the s-h-i-t Brandon Myers got last year from fans (deservedly) he was not the reason we sucked last year, not even remotely.

    With the salary cap teams have to pick their spots on what positions they spend on and what positions they go cheap. No better position to go cheap with an athletic, raw player, like Tight End.

    •  GOAT56 says:

      I agree. I think our method has been right. Last year was the only year we didn’t get good production since Shockey was traded.

  6.  GOAT56 says:

    I think Donnell has to be knocked off the roster. He’s not as secure as Robinson but he’s not in a total free for all in my view. I think us keeping 4 TEs just to keep him on our 53 last showed how much we value his upside. We have invested a few years in his development as well. I also think how they talked about used the TEs in so many different positions it favors Donnell as well.

    I as much as anyone want and think Robinson can breakthrough this year. However, I don’t think it’s his last chance. He’s a draft pick and still has a year after this year on a rookie contract. He will be back next year too.

  7.  GOAT56 says:

    I don’t think we should underestimate Kinnard’s ability to contribute or even start. Him being moved around in college allowed him not to completely excel and was therefore overlooked. Him being able to understand the mental part is huge, that’s why rookies usually struggle to contribute. Kinnard doesn’t project to be an all pro but a good player like a more versatile Goff was before his injury.

  8.  fanfor55years says:

    I’m not going to pretend I know anything about the tight ends. I’m not even going to agree that they play a critical role in the offense. I know McAdoo liked to use the tight end, in particular by moving them around to create matchup issues. But as he has said on many occasions, “This is the Giants’ offense, not my offense.” I think it’s safe to say we will go at a faster pace, will look for quicker releases on many pass plays, and will use formation shifts to create problems for the defense. I think it’s safe to say we’ll be looking for a lot of YAC. I really don’t know how critical the tight ends will prove and suspect we won’t know until halfway through the preseason schedule. The decisions about who stays and who goes will, I think, depend heavily upon how they will be used. So any roster predictions are fraught with risk.

    What I do know is that I have on good authority that the coaches have really liked what Fells has brought to the table during OTAs and are “encouraged” by Robinson’s and Donnell’s progress but are withholding judgment until the pads are on. One thing I’m sure of is that it will be McAdoo, Coughlin, Ross and Reese making those personnel decisions at that spot along with John Mara. Gilbride Jr. won’t, and shouldn’t, have more than a “soft advisory” role. This is not Mike Pope we’re talking about.

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