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Thursday, August 14, 2014
Larry Donnell, tight end in progress

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- He's been the No. 1 tight end on the New York Giants' depth chart since training camp started, but Larry Donnell knows he's neither a sure thing nor a finished product. Asked what he needs to do to lock down that starting job, Donnell said Thursday, "Be a playmaker," which is a fine, football-sounding answer but not a complete one.

Donnell
The Giants' new offense, led by new coordinator Ben McAdoo, would  like to use the tight end a lot. The issue is that none of the tight ends on the roster is an established starter. Donnell leads the pack in the coaches' minds right now, but Daniel Fells, Adrien Robinson, Kellen Davis or even undrafted rookie Xavier Grimble could end up overtaking him. Which is why Donnell isn't getting comfortable.

"It's a confidence builder," Donnell said of being listed first on the depth chart. "But at the same time, I don't really think too much about it. I'm out there with the ones, the twos, the threes, it doesn't matter. It's a good feeling, especially where I came from, being a backup. But I just feed off of that. Never get too comfortable. Keep grinding."

Donnell has caught the ball as well as any tight end in camp, which isn't saying a whole lot. But the key to his holding the spot may be improvement as a blocker in the run game. Earlier in the week, McAdoo was praising Donnell's camp performance but also said he's "capable of blocking sometimes better than he does on tape."

Asked what he thought that meant, Donnell said: "Sometimes I make little mistakes that don't put me in the best situation or the best position. So I'm just trying to improve that so I can show more. We've only had two games so far, so he must be talking about the first one. I felt like I didn't do so well in the first game. Second game, I felt like I picked it up a little bit. So in my opinion, he's probably talking about the first game."

Donnell blocked downfield fairly well on a couple of run plays in that game, but he got overwhelmed a bit at the line of scrimmage and needs to be tougher and more aggressive there. Because they love his work ethic and his special-teams contribution -- and in part because Fells has been hurt and Robinson hasn't shown much of anything -- the Giants' coaches seem to want Donnell to seize the job. To this point, neither he nor anyone else has done so. They have about three and a half more weeks to sort it all out.