Spotlight: Tight ends

July, 11, 2012
7/11/12
11:00
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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.
Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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