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Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Robinson, Grimble could fill void at TE

By Kieran Darcy

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants currently have five tight ends on their roster, with a combined six receptions in the NFL last season.

The team made seven draft picks earlier this month, but none of them were tight ends.

Sounds like a problem, right?

But it's also a huge opportunity for 25-year-old Adrien Robinson and 21-year-old Xavier Grimble, two young players with a lot to prove.

Robinson, the Giants' fourth-round draft pick in 2012 out of Cincinnati, has been a major disappointment in his first two years in the league. In part due to injuries, and in part due to general unreadiness, Robinson has played in just three games, and has yet to catch a pass.

"Being my third year [coming up], I know it’s basically show up or go home," Robinson said Tuesday. "So that’s my mentality, that’s how I’m looking at it."

The 6-foot-4, 264-pound Robinson put up relatively unimpressive numbers in college, with 12 catches for 183 yards and three touchdowns his senior year. The Giants drafted him based on his overall athletic ability and upside, with general manager Jerry Reese labeling Robinson "the JPP of tight ends."

That hasn't panned out, at least not yet, but Robinson sounds enthusiastic about this coming season.

"My weight’s down, got a new OC, new tight ends coach," Robinson said. "It’s a fresh start, a clean slate."

New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is still installing the new offense, but Robinson predicts the tight ends will have more chances to catch the ball. He said he likes the new offense more, and sounds more comfortable with new position coach Kevin M. Gilbride, as opposed to former tight ends coach Mike Pope.

"He's younger, so he kind of relates on a different level," Robinson said. "Not that Coach Pope didn't relate, but I think it helps to have a guy closer to your age."

Grimble is similar in size to Robinson -- the same height, and just seven pounds lighter. He put up only modestly better numbers at USC, with 25 catches for 271 yards and two touchdowns this past fall.

Despite having a year of college eligibility remaining, Grimble entered the NFL draft, but was not selected.

Was he surprised? Yes. But right after the draft ended, several teams showed interest in signing Grimble as a free agent. The Giants were the first team to call, which meant something to Grimble, as did the franchise's history.

"I grew up watching Jeremy Shockey and Kevin Boss -- the Giants were always known for having great tight ends," Grimble said. "It's just one of those organizations that to be a part of is just a great thing. I'm just really excited that I got an opportunity to be here."

Speaking of history, Grimble sounds like an avid student when it comes to his position. While in college he watched tape of some of the all-time greats, specifically mentioning John Mackey and Kellen Winslow Sr. And after receiving uniform No. 89 with the Giants, he quickly searched the Internet for highlights of another Giants tight end who wore No. 89, the legendary Mark Bavaro, and sent out this tweet:

Watching some Mark Bavaro highlights ! #payhomage #inspiration

— Xavier Grimble (@justfollowZae23) May 18, 2014
"I'm a fan of the position," Grimble said. "I've always followed all the greats. It's inspiring to me. I feel like we're all connected in some way."

It's way too early to know whether Grimble can make any real impact in the NFL himself. There are reasons he went undrafted -- Grimble received a "below average" rating on his ESPN draft profile for separation skills, and an even worse "marginal" rating for big-play ability.

But at least he knows that a true tight end needs to do more than just catch the ball.

"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," Grimble said. "I want to be the guy who can block and catch passes, have an all-around game."

"The way I was taught," Grimble added, "you don’t block, you don’t play."