ALBANY, N.Y. -- Tight ends coach Mike Pope was not aware that Martellus Bennett had referred to himself as a "Black Unicorn" earlier in training camp.
"I don't know anything about the unicorn business," Pope quipped, drawing laughter from the media gathered around him.
But Pope does know a thing or two about tight ends. The highly respected coach of 30 years watched Bennett contribute as a backup to perennial Pro Bowler Jason Witten for four seasons in Dallas. When Bennett signed with the Giants, Pope told him he had a chance to move out of Witten's shadow, to not be "Jason Witten Jr."
"He made a lot of plays for [Dallas], he's a good blocker. He's a huge, big, powerful man and they did use him in more secondary pass games roles," Pope said. "He did catch some screens and do some things like that, but he didn't play a tremendous numbers of snaps for them. ... Bennett has the opportunity to not be somebody's younger brother and he can move into that tight end role."
Bennett is second on the depth chart behind starter Bear Pascoe as he learns the offense. Pope said Bennett will play more early in the preseason because the team uses a lot of two-tight-end sets.
"He understands very quickly the concept, but you have to translate into our verbiage. And that's probably been the thing that slowed him down," Pope said. "It's hard to evaluate him until they know exactly what they're doing and they can play at the speed of the game."
More from Pope:
• He said Pascoe has an opportunity to follow the path Jake Ballard took from obscurity to starter last season. "A year ago at this time we didn't know any more about Jake Ballard than we really know about Bear Pascoe in that role right now. If Bear can do what Jake was able to do and be a good player at the point of attack and be someone that the quarterback can trust and have chemistry with, then anything can happen."
• Fourth-round pick Adrien Robinson, dubbed the "J.P.P of tight ends" by general manager Jerry Reese has been at a disadvantage at camp for a few reasons, Pope said. Robinson's class at Cincinnati didn't graduate until late June so he missed almost all of the team's spring work except for the minicamp. Robinson also played in a wide-open college offense, so his blocking is still a work in progress.
"Here at our place you have to be a blocker first and then you grow into the passing game. If you think back to all the players that we've had here that have done well, that's been the way we have developed them, so he has to do that," Pope said. "You can see the athleticism; if you watch him in the one-on-one things against the defensive players he's very athletic. He does have a large number of, not flaws, but areas that he hasn't had any experience in."