By Zach Gad
Larry Donnell, Daniel Fells, Xavier Grimble, Kellen Davis and Adrien Robinson. If you’ve never heard of any of these players, that is understandable, and you’re probably not alone. These are the five tight ends on the New York Giants roster.
Clearly, one of the biggest question marks for the Giants going into the 2014 season is at tight end. Those five players have combined for three total receptions in a Giants uniform, and none of them has had double-digit receptions since 2012.
During the 2013 season, the “best” production came from both Donnell and Davis, who had equally unimpressive stats. Each had three receptions, Donnell had 31 receiving yards and Davis had 32, and Davis added one touchdown. None of the players with NFL experience has met the standard for a starting tight end. Fells has the best individual season among them, catching 92 passes for 391 yards and two touchdowns with the St. Louis Rams in 2010.
If the Giants want to improve from last year, they will need for their starter to have a career season. New York has some experience using little proven tight ends. They have gone seasons with guys such as Kevin Boss, Jake Ballard and Martellus Bennett and seen solid production.
When the team defeated the New England Patriots in the 2007 Super Bowl, Boss started the big game due to an injury to incumbent Jeremy Shockey. He provided a big play in the game, catching a 45-yard pass from Eli Manning to set up a touchdown. During the 2011 season, Ballard was the starter and the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl again. Ballard put up 604 receiving yards and four touchdowns during that Super Bowl-winning season.
If the Giants expect to get back to those winning ways, they will need to see similar production by another relatively unknown player, but for now the starting job is wide open.
When evaluating their tight ends, the Giants need to remember the struggles of their offensive line in 2013. The injury-ravaged unit had trouble keeping Eli Manning upright and contributed to a running game that ranked third from the bottom in yards per carry.
In an effort to improve both the O-line and the tight end position, the best choice as the starter would be Xavier Grimble. Yes, he is an undrafted rookie who has never played a snap in the NFL, but the Giants don’t have much better options. Last season, Fells did not play a game, Donnell and Davis each had three receptions and Robinson has not had a catch in two pro seasons.
Grimble is listed at 6-foot-4 and weighs 261 pounds. The rookie out of USC has great size and is good at blocking and receiving. He was considered one of the best tight ends coming into college (ESPN had him ranked as the No. 31 overall prospect in his class), but injuries and a scheme change slowed his production at USC. But he has the potential to be a serviceable tight end in the league, and given the Giants’ option, serviceable may be the best they can hope for.
Zach is an intern for MLB Advanced Media, a partner with SNY.tv