New York Giants: Ryan Purvis

Camp preview: Tight end

July, 24, 2012
As training camp approaches, we're counting down to camp by taking a look at the defending champions, position by position.

Projected starters: Bear Pascoe and Martellus Bennett.

Projected reserves: Travis Beckum, Adrien Robinson and Christian Hopkins.

New faces: Bennett, Robinson, Larry Donnell and Ryan Purvis.

Going, going, gone: Jake Ballard.

Player to watch: Bennett. The Giants made signing Bennett a priority in free agency. Bennett practically oozes potential. He has terrific size at 6-6. He has soft hands and nice athleticism. He is a good blocker. Bennett could be a terrific red zone target for Manning. The hope is Bennett will fulfill his potential now that he has a chance to start after backing up Jason Witten in Dallas. With Eli Manning and tight ends guru Mike Pope at his side, Bennett has a chance to shine. He just has to learn the new offense and put it all together.

Potential strength: Besides showing that he is an elite quarterback, Manning displayed the ability to make players better and develop unknown players like Ballard and Victor Cruz last season. Pope, the tight ends coach, is one of the best in the business so there’s a good chance either Pascoe, Bennett, Hopkins or Robinson emerges into a viable option at tight end.

Beckum will be in that mix as an option in the passing game once he recovers from ACL surgery and is ready to play.

Pascoe enters camp as the starter and the Giants like how he can block, catch and play both tight end and fullback. But the job as Manning’s new tight end target is there for Bennett to take.

Robinson, the team’s fourth-round pick, may be a year away from contributing and is still learning the system and game. But if he truly is the “JPP of tight ends” as Jerry Reese labeled him, Robinson will be contributing in some form and flashing his potential by the end of the season.

It remains to be seen how many tight ends the Giants will keep. They carried three on the roster last season.

Potential weakness: Lack of experience. Pascoe has started 11 games in each of the last two seasons as a hybrid tight end/fullback but only has caught 22 passes in three seasons. Bennett has a total of 85 receptions and 31 starts in his four seasons with the Cowboys. Beckum has a total of 26 receptions in three seasons.

After those three, only Purvis has NFL experience among the remaining tight ends on the roster. Purvis played in 10 games last season in Tampa Bay and catching five passes.

Wild card: Robinson and Hopkins. With the job up for grabs, anybody could conceivably emerge so we are going with two wild card options. The Giants love Robinson’s athleticism and raw potential. Robinson, though, missed OTAs as he finished up school. If he really is as athletic and gifted as advertised, Robinson could develop with Manning and Pope’s help into a contributor this season if he can grasp the offense and game quickly enough.

Pope helped develop Ballard and Pascoe, relatively anonymous tight ends before, into starters. He could keep that streak going with Hopkins, a 6-5, 277-pound tight end that the Giants kept on the practice squad last season. Reese has been talking Hopkins up since just after the Super Bowl as an option to replace Ballard and the injured Beckum. He has some athleticism and hands as well.

Tell us what you think of the tight ends below.

Spotlight: Tight ends

July, 11, 2012
With training camp at the end of the month, spotlight focuses the tight end position -- sure to be one of the most watched competitions in training camp.

SPOTLIGHT: The tight ends

THE COMPETITION: Bear Pascoe, Martellus Bennett, Travis Beckum, Adrien Robinson, Christian Hopkins, Ryan Purvis and Larry Donnell.

THE 411: Last year, the Giants replaced Kevin Boss with Jake Ballard. This year, the Giants hope to find another big target over the middle for Eli Manning.

Kyle Terada/US PresswireBear Pascoe

Pascoe has the most experience of all the healthy tight ends. Beckum is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the Super Bowl and might not be ready to play when the season starts.

Bennett is the guy the team hopes will step into the role after signing him in free agency. But Bennett has to adjust to a new offense and show he can handle a bigger role and fulfill his potential. Bennett missed some time in OTAs due to a hamstring issue as the coaching staff wanted to see the tight end shed some pounds.

The Giants drafted Robinson in the fourth round, but he is raw and missed OTAs to finish up in school. He may be at least a year away from contributing, but if he is really the "JPP of tight ends" -- as Jerry Reese described him -- he'll show flashes and get better as the season progresses.

The Giants like Hopkins, who has been on the practice squad. He has shown flashes of good hands and is a big body at 6-5, 277 pounds.

WHAT THE COACHES ARE SAYING: "Except for Bear, there is nobody that has done it before," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "You are hoping to have Bear as a swing guy, a second tight end -- he could motion back and play the fullback position, give you what he has always given. you which is unbelievable toughness and somehow making plays that maybe you don't think that he should be able to make.

"He always seems to make [those plays] for you -- not necessarily as your starting tight end," Gilbride continued. "But right now he is the starting tight end. Martellus was out and just barely got back. Adrien Robinson missed [OTAs]. So right now we have a long way to go at that spot."

Gilbride, though, acknowledged that he thought Ballard could be a good blocker and perhaps an underneath target in the passing game before Ballard exceeded his expectations and became a bigger threat.

"You are hoping Martellus [steps up]. ... That is why he was brought here," Gilbride said. "You are hoping that Adrien Robinson down the road would be the guy. If not, Bear is going to be the guy.

"We have been able to do it in the past. We have to do it again.”

CAMP PREDICTION: Pascoe enters camp as the starter and may be used more in the passing game out of necessity if Bennett isn't able to get comfortable in the new system by the time the season opener rolls around.

Pascoe displayed an ability to catch balls down the middle in OTAs and minicamp, and the Giants could lean on him early on until Bennett works his way in and earns Manning's trust. Robinson might need this year to develop before becoming a factor.

Beckum's impact all depends on his health and when he will be able to come back. Also, it remains to be seen how much the Giants use Beckum. When he was healthy last season, he wasn't utilized a ton as they leaned more on Ballard and Pascoe with blocking in mind as well. The Giants might also bring Beckum along slowly off his knee injury –- as they should with an ACL injury suffered in February -- so he might not start contributing until a few weeks into the season, if not later.

Hopkins could be a dark horse since tight ends coach Mike Pope has been able to develop guys like Boss, Ballard and Pascoe. And because of that, you can't discount Purvis or Donnell either, but they could potentially end up on the practice squad.

While Pascoe may be the guy Manning trusts in the passing game early on, the Giants also can use fullback Henry Hynoski as a short-yardage passing option if Bennett needs more time to get comfortable with the offense.

Hynoski showed the ability to catch out of the backfield late last season. I think Manning will look to Pascoe early until he develops a rapport with Bennett or another tight end, and that gives Pascoe a step up on the competition and the opportunity to seize the job.

Tell us what you want to see happen at tight end below.