New York Giants: Daniel Fells

Happy Saturday. Thanks for using the #nygmail hashtag on Twitter to submit your New York Giants questions. @DanGrazianoESPN: This is a good question. Based on Odell Beckham Jr.'s brilliant nine-game sample so far, you could make a case that he might have been drafted higher than No. 12 overall. The thing to consider is that it's pretty doggone tough to get drafted higher than No. 12 overall. The teams that took wide receivers in the top 10 were Buffalo and Tampa Bay, who went with Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans, and I don't think either of those teams is or should be disappointed in its choice. Could you make the case that Tennessee should have taken Beckham over tackle Taylor Lewan at No. 11? Maybe, but we saw what the Titans looked like Sunday with backup tackles, and it wasn't pretty. You can make the case that Cleveland, knowing Josh Gordon's suspension was looming, should have gone wide receiver at No. 8. But their plan all along was to get a cornerback there, so even if they wanted a do-over on Justin Gilbert they likely would have gone with a different corner. St. Louis was a team I thought could/should have taken a wide receiver at No. 2, but again, not sure they'd agree if given a chance to do it again. So while Beckham has so far outplayed several of the guys taken ahead of him, in answer to your question, I would think there's a pretty good chance he would have made it to No. 12. The quality of this year's wide receiver class has been pretty high, with even guys like Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Mathews and Davante Adams, who were picked later, standing out. Not sure a do-over would change Beckham's spot. Fun question, though.

@DanGrazianoESPN: The Giants view Rashad Jennings as their starting running back and rookie Andre Williams as their backup if both are healthy. Assuming Jennings is back to full health (and he was practicing without limitations this week), I would expect the arrangement to revert to something like the one the Giants used earlier in the season, with Jennings getting the bulk of the carries and Williams spelling him when he needs a breather. Williams' big game Sunday was impressive, and Giants coaches say they did see improvement over what Williams showed when pressed into starter's duty earlier in the season. But that game was against the No. 32-ranked Titans run defense, and the Giants still believe Williams has a lot of work to do before he's a reliable NFL starting running back. If Jennings is banged up, sure, Williams could get a larger chunk of the carries, get the goal-line work, etc. But if Jennings can handle 25 or so touches, the Giants will give them to him. They still believe he's their best option.

@DanGrazianoESPN: Anything's a possibility, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Giants check in on free-agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. But my personal belief is that the price will be too high, given their large number of needs. And especially if they're bringing back Jason Pierre-Paul, I think that's too big a spend on defensive line when there's still work to be done on the offensive line, at linebacker, at safety and a few other spots. Don't rule it out, and you're right that a heavy investment in the defensive line would be exciting given their issues there. But my sense is that Suh is after the last possible dollar, and I don't see the Giants being the team to deliver it.

@DanGrazianoESPN: I do think veteran tight end Daniel Fells has been a quietly dependable performer. But I do not think the Giants will make him a "high priority," because with tight end that is simply not their way. To my knowledge, they are happy with Fells and the way he has handled and performed in his role. Larry Donnell is the primary pass-catching threat at tight end, but Fells has shown enough to be useful in that area and is a strong blocker. So they'd certainly be willing to bring him back. Given that he's not likely to end the season with big numbers, they might be able to bring him back at their price. But if someone is willing to pay Fells a buck more than the Giants believe he's worth, they'll surely let him go and look for yet another bargain option at a position they do not prioritize.

Thanks for all of your questions. Enjoy the rest of your Saturday.  

Giants add Cunningham to practice squad

September, 2, 2014
Tight end Jerome Cunningham, who was released a week ago when the New York Giants reduced their roster to 75, is back with the team and has signed with the practice squad. That news comes courtesy of Cunningham's agent, Howard Shatsky, who tweeted it Tuesday afternoon.

The Giants liked Cunningham, who signed after the start of camp, and believe he could develop into a contributor at a position of significant need for them at some point this season. They initially planned to keep four tight ends on their active roster, but they only ended up keeping three after cutting veteran Kellen Davis on Saturday. So it's not certain they'd need an injury to Larry Donnell, Adrien Robinson or Daniel Fells to put Cunningham on the roster.

The Giants ended up keeping six wide receivers, largely because of the injury that continues to sideline first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. Once Beckham is healthy, the Giants likely can get by with five wide receivers (of whom Beckham would be one), and if they wanted to go back to four tight ends at that time they could add Cunningham.

The addition of Cunningham brings the number of players on the Giants' practice squad to nine. They are allowed up to 10. They had several players in for workouts Tuesday to try out for the final spots. One of those players was Ball State wide receiver Willie Snead, who spent training camp with the Cleveland Browns.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' hope, when training camp began, was that someone from their group of unproven tight ends would emerge as a clear starter -- a do-it-all tight end who could be used in a variety of roles.

That has not happened.

"I really think that there'll be a group of guys that'll play that'll help us in different situations and will be matched up according to the circumstance," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said after practice Monday. "I think that's where it's going to go. I think there's a lot of roles for that spot."

The four tight ends likely to make the final roster are, in no particular order, Larry Donnell, Adrien Robinson, Daniel Fells and Kellen Davis. Donnell was the nominal starter for much of camp, but Davis was the starter in Friday's preseason game against the Jets. Robinson played every snap of the successful two-minute drive at the end of the first half. Fells has returned from a knee injury to take a larger role in practice recently.

"I think it's very close," Coughlin said. "I think, some days, it's very difficult to see who has done what better than someone else."

Coughlin and the Giants won't say this publicly, but the reason for this is that there isn't a strong option in the group. As a result, an offense that wants its tight end to play a large role will have to shuffle players in and out at the position depending on whether they need a run blocker, a receiving option, an H-back ... whatever role a certain play, opponent or situation calls for.

"That's not necessarily what the play was, but the plan has evolved to that," Coughlin said. "People can be utilized for their skills in different ways."

The Giants open the regular season in two weeks in Detroit against the Lions.
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.

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.

Giants Camp Report: Day 14

August, 12, 2014
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Giants training camp:
  • Wide receiver Victor Cruz is worth watching over the next couple of days. He missed practice Monday with a knee issue, and while he returned to practice Tuesday, he went down in a collision with a defensive back in one-on-one drills and was limping a bit when he got up. He returned to practice and caught a long pass in double coverage a few plays later, but he wasn't on the field very much for the two-minute drill that ended practice on a field that was starting to get slippery due to light rain. It goes without saying that the Giants' wide receiver corps, which is littered with unproven entities, could not stand to lose Cruz.
  • Some injured guys are working their way back, though. Rookie receiver Odell Beckham made good on his promise to keep progressing from his hamstring injury. He worked in individual drills Tuesday and was the intended target on one of quarterback Eli Manning's interceptions in 7-on-7 drills. Also catching passes was tight end Daniel Fells, who'd missed some time earlier in camp with a knee injury. Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo named Fells and Larry Donnell when asked who among the tight end group has stood out so far. Donnell has been the No. 1 tight end on the depth chart all camp, but Fells has the best chance of anyone to overtake him from what I've seen.
  • Second-year safety Cooper Taylor continues to impress. He kept running back Rashad Jennings from getting around the corner on one run play I noticed in team drills.
  • Veteran defensive end Israel Idonije, who signed last week, could be getting a legitimate look for a roster spot. He's been getting some defensive end reps, and it helps his cause that Idonije is a player who can contribute at a high level on special teams, where he's been working a lot. Just something to keep an eye on.
  • Wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan (knee), return man Trindon Holliday (hamstring), fullback John Conner (concussion), running back Peyton Hillis (ankle), defensive tackle Mike Patterson (shoulder), cornerback Jayron Hosley (foot) and tight end Xavier Grimble (hamstring) all sat out. Coach Tom Coughlin said Conner looks as though he could practice this week and that Hillis' progress is "slow."
  • Former Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress was a guest at practice Tuesday and watched from the sideline.
  • The Giants practice from 1:20 pm to 3:30 pm ET on Wednesday. Practice is open to the public.

Observation Deck: New York Giants

August, 9, 2014

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants right guard Brandon Mosley pulled left and helped center J.D. Walton open up what Rashad Jennings would later call a "gaping hole." Jennings ran through it and all the way to the end zone, 73 yards for a touchdown on the Giants' second possession of Saturday night's 20-16 exhibition victory over the Steelers.

It was a beautifully designed and executed play. It was all the Giants' first-team offense did well.

Eli Manning was on the field for 12 snaps and threw two passes, completing neither. The Giants' new offense remains a work in progress with 30 days to go until their "Monday Night Football" opener in Detroit.

Some other thoughts on the Giants' second preseason game:
  • You want to know who's leading the race for starting tight end? The Giants ran 26 offensive plays in the first half, and Larry Donnell was on the field for 25 of them. The only other tight end who even played in the first half was Kellen Davis, who was in on four plays, all of which also included Donnell. I think the Giants would like to be able to give Daniel Fells a longer look, but he is injured and did not play. Adrien Robinson is doing nothing in practice to help himself.
  • Rookie defensive tackle Jay Bromley, the team's third-round pick, looked good in the second half against the Steelers' backup line, getting into the backfield to snuff out a run play and putting pressure on the quarterback.
  • Cornerback Charles James muffed a punt in the third quarter -- not the kind of thing that's going to help the feisty return man make a team that has this many good cornerbacks. Preston Parker replaced him on the next punt return.
  • The "NASCAR" package of four pass-rushers on third downs featured Cullen Jenkins and Robert Ayers at defensive tackle, with Mathias Kiwanuka and Jason Pierre-Paul at end when the first team was in the game.
  • The Giants were flagged for 10 penalties for a total of 109 yards. Of those, two were Jayron Hosley pass-interference penalties of 12 and 47 yards. Zack Bowman was called for illegal contact and Mark Herzlich was called for defensive holding (though he wasn't on the field that play, so it's unclear which Giants defender was flagged). Bennett Jackson received a five-yard holding call. And Prince Amukamara was whistled for an illegal-contact penalty that was declined. Giants defensive backs continue to struggle with the new rules/points of emphasis governing illegal downfield contact.
  • Amukamara made a great play to run down speedy Pittsburgh rookie Dri Archer on a 46-yard screen pass that looked to be a sure touchdown. It's the second time in two games Amukamara has shown the speed to keep up with a touted rookie, as he covered Buffalo's Sammy Watkins well Sunday night.
  • Jerrel Jernigan struggled badly with the first-team offense, and the Giants are eager for rookie Odell Beckham Jr. to get healthy and take over that spot.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Back from their trip to Canton and fresh off their exhibition victory in the Hall of Fame Game, the New York Giants return to the practice field Tuesday. This week's schedule is different from what they've done so far in camp, as practices on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will run from 5:40 p.m. to 7:50 p.m. instead of early afternoons.

Please note that Tuesday's practice is NOT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. This is because, as I understand it, the musical group One Direction is having a concert at MetLife Stadium on Tuesday night. Thursday's practice is also not open to the public because the Jets are having a preseason game at MetLife that night. If you want to see one of these evening practices, Wednesday's is your only chance to show up and watch.

However, I will be there all three days, watching for those of you who cannot. Here are a couple of things I'll have my eye on:
  • The health status of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., left tackle Will Beatty and tight end Daniel Fells. Beckham hasn't practiced since July 22 due to a hamstring injury and is missing valuable reps in his first NFL training camp. The Giants won't put him on the field until they're sure he's not at risk for further injury. But it's possible he could get clearance this week. Beatty has been working his way back from a broken leg but missed some practice time due to illness last week. Fells hurt his knee in Sunday night's game.
  • The running game. With David Wilson now out for good, the Giants may try to accelerate the development of rookie running back Andre Williams to see whether he can be a viable second option behind Rashad Jennings. If he can't, Peyton Hillis is the most likely guy to get the non-Jennings reps with the first team, though you wonder if they'll take a longer look at someone like Michael Cox or Kendall Gaskins as well. Williams showed a lot Sunday night but still has to prove he can contribute in the passing game as a receiver and a blocker before the Giants can trust him with significant reps.
  • The defensive line rotation. With Mike Patterson hurt, can Johnathan Hankins show enough to steal his starting spot? With Robert Ayers hurt, does Damontre Moore step up and show he deserves a larger role this year? Lots still to be sorted out on the defensive line.
It's tough to get New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin excited about very many things, especially when those things happen in preseason games. But a reporter who started asking Coughlin about a play from Sunday night's preseason opener on Monday's conference call couldn't even get his question out before Coughlin bubbled over.

"How about Corey Washington..." the question began.

"How about Corey Washington?!" Coughlin exclaimed. "Wasn't that some play by that kid?"

Indeed it was. In the fourth quarter of what would turn out to be a 17-13 exhibition victory over Buffalo in the Hall of Fame Game, Washington went high in the air to basically pick a Ryan Nassib pass off the helmet of a defender and raced to the end zone with the ball for a 73-yard touchdown catch.

"A game like this is important for a small-school guy like myself," said Washington, a 6-foot-4 undrafted rookie out of tiny Newberry College (enrollment 1,042) in South Carolina. "This is a chance to show the coaches what I have so I can make that 53-man roster."

He's certainly got a chance. With first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. missing basically all of training camp so far with a hamstring injury, and Mario Manningham and his bum knee no sure thing to make the roster, Washington and some of the other lesser-known receivers on the Giants roster are getting chances they might not otherwise have got. And Sunday night wasn't the first time Coughlin's noticed the tallest wideout on his team.

Coughlin spoke Monday of a special teams play Washington made as a gunner on punt returns, and the fact that he'd mention that is an eye-opener for Giants roster-projectors. Everybody knows, if you impress on special teams, it helps your chances. But Washington's chances also are helped by his height, and the fact that Coughlin says he's seen him make plays in practice similar to the one he made Sunday.

"You do sit up and notice when you see it," Coughlin said of Washington's height. "Because you think, 'Can he take the ball off the top of the defender?' And Corey just showed that he could."

Rueben Randle is 6-2 and seems to be the primary red zone target (along with all of the 6-5 tight ends) in practice drills. Washington's height offers the Giants something they don't have with Beckham, Jerrel Jernigan or even Victor Cruz, all of whom are sure to make the team.

Some other Giants notes:
  • Coughlin said tight end Daniel Fells' knee injury was a "bone bruise," which has to count as good news since it was announced as a sprain when Fells left the game. It is unclear whether Fells can practice Tuesday or play in Saturday night's home preseason game against the Steelers.
  • Left tackle Will Beatty, who's practiced more than was expected coming off his major leg injury, missed a couple of practices last week due to an illness and didn't make the trip to Canton for the game. Coughlin said they'd always planned to hold Beatty out of that game and that he didn't know yet whether Beatty would be ready to play Saturday night.
  • The Giants' practice schedule is odd this week. They will practice from 5:40 p.m. to 7:50 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Of those three practices, Wednesday's is the only one open to the public, which is important to note if you were planning to go to any of them. The Giants are off Friday in advance of Saturday's game and off Sunday as well.

Giants Camp Report: Day 8

July, 31, 2014
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Giants training camp:
  • There seemed to be a lot more practice reps than usual for backup quarterbacks Ryan Nassib and Curtis Painter on Thursday, likely because those are the quarterbacks who'll get the most playing time in Sunday night's preseason opener in Canton, Ohio. Eli Manning was fine and worked with the first team, don't worry. But it seemed as though the guys more likely to play Sunday got on the field a bit more on Thursday.
  • Nassib had some nice throws, including one to running back Kendall Gaskins up the left side with linebacker Devon Kennard in coverage, one that Corey Washington high-pointed on the right sideline and one on which Travis Harvey shook Prince Amukamara in the open field and got clear for a long gain. Painter had a ball tipped in the air and intercepted by Jordan Stanton. And the last play of practice was a Manning pass that Jacquian Williams batted into the air and Jameel McClain intercepted near the goal line.
  • Tight ends continue to be everywhere. There was a play on which Daniel Fells was the receiver lined up wide left and Larry Donnell was in the backfield. Running back Peyton Hillis was the one who ended up with the ball on that play, but it's clear the Giants would like to use the tight end liberally, and in a wide variety of roles, in their new offense. Now they just need to find one they can consider a starter.
  • Wide receiver Rueben Randle, who missed Tuesday's practice with a sore hamstring, was back practicing Thursday and made a nice touchdown catch from Manning in the back of the end zone. He and the tight ends (who are all 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-7) seem to be the primary and logical red zone targets since the rest of the receiving corps lacks height. Another reason they want the tight ends to step up. Fells caught a touchdown pass from Manning in goal-line drills, and Victor Cruz dropped one on the very next play.
  • Before he had to leave practice due to an illness, I thought left tackle Will Beatty was doing a good job dictating the action in his one-on-one matchups with Jason Pierre-Paul. Charles Brown got the bulk of the practice reps at left tackle, though. Beatty isn't likely to play Sunday, but he's done a good job so far in his recovery from a broken leg.
  • The Giants are scheduled to practice from 1:20 pm to 3:30 pm ET Friday and have Saturday off as they travel to Canton for Sunday night's game.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Daniel Fells did not play in the NFL in 2013, but not by choice. Thirty-two teams with 53-man rosters had zero room for the seven-year veteran.

One year later, he might be the starting tight end for the New York Giants.

That doesn't speak well of the Giants' depth at that position. But it's an incredible opportunity for the 30-year-old from Anaheim, California, who sat at home on Sundays last season, wondering if his football career had come to an end.

"It’s hard. It’s very hard," Fells said Tuesday about sitting out last season. "Personally I felt like I had the skill set to be in the league and be able to play. But certain things dictated differently."

Undrafted out of California-Davis, an FCS program, Fells spent his first two seasons as a member of the practice squads of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders, respectively. He finally saw his first real action with the St. Louis Rams in 2008, playing in 12 games, starting one, and catching seven passes for 81 yards.

He remained with the Rams in 2009 and 2010, playing in 30 of 32 regular-season games, starting 10, and scoring five touchdowns. In 2010 he posted a career-high 41 receptions for 391 yards.

The Denver Broncos signed Fells as a free agent, and he started 15 of 16 games for them in 2011, with 19 catches for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Then the New England Patriots signed him in the spring of 2012.

Fells played in 13 games for the Patriots in 2012, with four starts, but had just four catches for 85 yards. He was still with the team last summer but was cut at the end of training camp.

A couple of teams brought him in for tryouts in the first few weeks of the regular season, but things didn't pan out either time. Fells continued working out at home, but admits he had begun seriously contemplating life after football.

"I thought about owning a business," Fells said. "My father-in-law is a business broker, so he brings different businesses out in California to my attention, just things that he thinks that I would be pretty successful in. So I kept an eye towards certain things like that, but at the same time, football is where my heart is."

The Giants brought Fells in for a tryout just a few days after their disappointing 2013 regular season ended, and signed him on Jan. 7. Six months later, he's getting some reps with Eli Manning and the rest of the starters during the first week of training camp, and he caught a touchdown pass from Manning on Monday.

"Anytime you get your hands on the ball, it always feels good," Fells said Tuesday, smiling.

There are five tight ends on the Giants' roster, and Fells' main competition appears to be Adrien Robinson and Larry Donnell, who were both with the team last season.

The Giants also have free-agent addition Kellen Davis, formerly of the defending champion Seattle Seahawks, and undrafted rookie Xavier Grimble.

But Fells, despite sitting out last season, has the most years of NFL experience of the five, along with Davis. And probably the most appreciation of this opportunity, too.

"I’m not looking at it as a last chance, but at the same time, [I know] it can be taken from you at any moment," Fells said. "So I wake up every single morning and I go out every single day, I try to give my all, I try to do everything that I can to be the best athlete that I can, the best Giant that I can be."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The crux of the New York Giants' tight end problem, with six weeks until the regular season begins, continues to be this: Their new offense wants to rely on the tight end to a significant extent, but it still doesn't really have a tight end on which it can rely.

"Right now, we're looking for that complete tight end who can do it all," Giants tight ends coach Kevin M. Gilbride said Monday. "But we also need guys who are role players -- guys who can be specialists in certain areas. If he's best at executing a certain block, he's going to have the opportunity to make that block in the game. If he's best at running a certain route, he's going to have the opportunity to run that route in a game. So you need to have that all-around tight end, and then you also need to have specialists, guys who are great at a particular role."

The problem is that, to this point, no one from the group that includes Adrien Robinson, Larry Donnell, Daniel Fells, Kellen Davis and Xavier Grimble has established himself as the all-around guy.

"I think right now, they've all got a shot at doing it," Gilbride said. "They're all very good in certain areas right now and not as efficient or as good in other areas. In order to become that all-around tight end, they need to continue to develop."

Gilbride wouldn't handicap the competition, but based on what we've seen so far at practice, Fells looks like the most capable pass-catcher. Donnell made an excellent leaping catch on a seam throw from Ryan Nassib in practice Monday, a short time after Fells caught a touchdown pass from Eli Manning. Davis made a great catch on a seam-route throw from Nassib on Sunday. Robinson has always been a capable run-blocker and continues to show that. The Giants have tried their best to rotate all of the tight end candidates in with the first-team offense to give them all a chance to show what they can do. But it's too early for anyone to have separated himself.

"Every time they get on the field, they know they're being evaluated with everything that they do," Gilbride said. "When guys start to emerge, we'll know it."

So far in camp, we have seen tight ends lined up all over the formation -- in the slot, in tight, out wide... even in the backfield in a fullback or H-back role. Gilbride said that's not a case of experimentation; it's an integral part of the offense and something their tight ends will have to do. The new running game includes more zone and stretch concepts that will require the tight ends to be nimble and flexible as blockers. There is a lot to the job.

"I would describe it as 'Jack of all trades,'" Gilbride said. "Having them be in the backfield and playing a lot of that fullback role, splitting them out as the No. 1 receiver, the No. 2. An in-line tight end as far as the blocking and the pass receiving. It's a jack of all trades and they have to master them all. It's an exciting, fun position in this offense, but we need to continue to develop in order to be ready to help our team win football games."

The Giants could keep as many as four tight ends on their roster, especially if they wrap up the preseason with the same issue they have now -- guys who have disparate strengths and weaknesses and have to be mixed and matched in and out of the lineup depending on circumstances. But Gilbride made it clear that's not the ideal situation.

"I think you can get it done with the specialist-type thing, but that's not really what we're looking for," he said. "What we're really looking for is to develop a number of overall tight ends who can do it all."

The search continues.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- I have no idea whether Larry Donnell will be the starting tight end for the New York Giants this season, because no one has any idea, and if anyone did know for sure on July 25 it wouldn't be me. What I do know is that the Giants' coaches really, really like Donnell and don't have any clearly superior options. So the fact that Donnell was listed first at the position when the team handed out its first unofficial depth chart of training camp Thursday wasn't the most shocking thing we've ever seen.

As far as Donnell's concerned, it neither means nor changes anything.

"I'm just trying to do everything I can do to show the coaches I can do all of the right things as a player, so if that role comes my way, I can handle it," Donnell said before Giants practice Friday. "I just want to do the best I can to show I'm worthy of being here."

Those are common-sounding words, but Donnell lives them, and that is how he has caught the friendly attention of Giants coaches over the past two years. He was a willing and eager special-teams player in 2013, and Giants coaches say his dedication and work ethic were such that they looked for opportunities to involve him more in the offense. He is 25 years old. At 6-foot-6, 265 pounds he is the second-largest of the five tight ends on the Giants' roster after the 6-7, 265-pound Kellen Davis. Donnell was an undrafted free agent in 2012, one full year out of Grambling State, where he began his career as a quarterback and caught only 38 passes in four years once he moved to tight end during his freshman year.

This is an unlikely path for an NFL starting tight end, and Donnell remains far from a sure thing. He still needs to refine his run-blocking, which is likely to be the most important quality the Giants look for when they decide on a tight end, and he's obviously also still evolving as a pass-catcher. He believes his progress in the offense last year could have been more significant if not for a foot injury he suffered in the spring, and he believes he's coming along quickly this camp as he competes with Davis, Daniel Fells, Adrien Robinson and Xavier Grimble for the starting role.

Donnell is also cognizant of the importance of continuing to be an animal on special teams. While the Giants will surely pick the best tight end as the winner of the competition, if it's close, they're likely to select the guy who has made the most favorable impression on them in the dirty work.

"No change on that," Donnell said. "Still on special teams, still flying around, doing all those things. The more you can do, the better."

Giants GM Jerry Reese tends to downplay the need for an experienced, reliable tight end, pointing out that the tight end hasn't been a big pass-catcher for much of recent Giants history. But Donnell thinks that's changing this year under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.

"The tight end plays a big tole in this offense," Donnell said. "We're a big part of it. We're main reads, No. 1 reads, so it's important to know where you need to be and how you need to get there. We're a big part of the offense."
The New York Giants Twitter mailbag is back from vacation! And not that you asked, but no, it does not feel as though it played enough golf. But oh well.

@DanGrazianoESPN: Speed. Like the Eleanor Roosevelt quote says in the opening credits of Talladega Nights, "hot, nasty, bad-a** speed." Odell Beckham was drafted to give the Giants the field-stretching threat that Hakeem Nicks did not provide last year, and the team believes he can outrun defensive backs and help open things up for Ben McAdoo's offense near the line of scrimmage. Of course, assuming they're right, Beckham can provide a big-play threat in his own right down the field. But their hope is that he has the speed to beat press coverage and stretch out defenses in a way that allows their offense to operate with a variety of quick-hitting options. I have my own concerns over how Beckham will react to big, physical cornerbacks, but there are plenty of people I talk to around the league who like him a lot and believe he'll contribute right away. @DanGrazianoESPN: Well, I think very. But I don't think there's any way you can count on it to happen. Even if Snee stays healthy, can he possibly deliver the same old power and explosiveness, on a consistent, week-to-week basis, that he did early in his career? All due respect to a great player, but I don't see it. They need a reliable backup plan, and I doubt it's John Jerry. So watch Brandon Mosley closely in camp. The Giants liked what they saw from him in the spring, and they're hoping he emerges as a reliable backup option (or a starter option if they do lose Snee and/or Jerry) at guard. A healthy, 16-game Snee would be a huge benefit to the Giants' offensive line. But I think it's a real long shot that they get it. He's a tough, tough champion who could surprise, but bodies wear down over time, especially at that position. @DanGrazianoESPN: I mean, I don't know who you have in mind, but Daniel Fells and Kellen Davis each have five years' worth of experience in the NFL, and those guys are already on the team. Given what's left on the free-agent market at this point, it's hard to see how they could bring in anyone who's any different from those two guys to do what you're suggesting. The Giants honestly want to give Adrien Robinson and Larry Donnell a chance to show what they can do. They honestly don't believe in spending big resources on the position. But it's not as though they have NO TIGHT ENDS on the roster. What they lack is an experienced starting tight end they can trust to be a reliable option in the passing game. If none of the guys they have show any ability to be that, then sure, they could be shopping for tight end help once other teams start making cuts in late August. But given what the Giants tend to expect out of their tight ends, it's hard to imagine how someone on the roster won't emerge as at least a viable option. This is the group they're taking to camp at this point, and the truth is there's not a lot out there right now that would improve it. @DanGrazianoESPN: There's a role there for rookie fourth-round running back Andre Williams if he can take it. The Giants love to have a big, power running back who can grind out yards up the middle. No matter who the offensive coordinator is, that's going to be something Tom Coughlin wants. But they won't force Williams into playing time if he doesn't show he can handle some of the pass-protection responsibilities and maybe catch a ball or two. So while they like Williams and he was extremely productive in college last year, you shouldn't assume he's going to be a big factor in the run game right away. The Giants don't like to rush rookies, and everything I heard about Williams in spring practices indicated he needed a lot more work. They have Rashad Jennings, Peyton Hillis, Michael Cox and probably David Wilson, so they can certainly get by. When Williams is ready, they will have use for him. But that may not be Week 1.

Thanks for all of your questions. I'm'a check back in Monday from training camp, and we'll be off and running. Until then ... Shake n Bake. 

All this week, and then the week of July 14, we're taking a position-by-position look at the New York Giants' roster heading into training camp. Today we look at the position that's on everyone's mind: Tight end.

Projected starter: Adrien Robinson

Other candidates: Larry Donnell, Kellen Davis, Daniel Fells, Xavier Grimble

That's not a super-inspirational group right there, and Robinson is in that top spot only because he appears to be the leading candidate at this point. Anyone from the "others" group could overtake him easily, but as of now the Giants are hoping that this is the year Robinson hones that raw talent they saw in him when they drafted him in the fourth round in 2012. They drafted him based on that raw ability and hoped they could mold him into an NFL player. Health issues have slowed his development, which admittedly may never happen, but they see a guy who can be a dynamic option as a blocker and a receiver if he can get consistent practice time.

Donnell is a player whose versatility and athleticism they also like, and he was enough of a contributor on special teams last year to warrant a longer look with the offense. Fells and Davis are basically just blockers, and there's likely to be a spot for at least one of them. Grimble is an undrafted rookie out of USC who was once thought of highly as a recruit but never really put it together in college. He's a wild-card, but in this tight end field, you can't rule out anyone. Unless the Giants find a better option on the market between now and the start of camp, this is going to be a free-for-all search for the least objectionable option.

Tight end competition appears wide open

June, 14, 2014
We've written this before, but it bears repeating -- the Giants currently have five tight ends on the roster with a grand total of six catches in the NFL last season.

That's a scary thought. But also, a golden opportunity for Adrien Robinson, Larry Donnell, Kellen Davis, Daniel Fells and Xavier Grimble.

Coach Tom Coughlin clearly hopes one of the younger players will emerge over the course of the summer and be ready to start come September. For the second straight week, when asked about the tight end situation Thursday, Coughlin immediately steered the conversation in that direction.

"What I do like," Coughlin said, "is the fact that the young guys have jumped in there and done, I think, a good job of understanding what’s been asked of them and really doing well in limiting their assignment errors."

Robinson, a fourth-round draft pick in 2012, continued to get some reps with the first unit during Thursday's OTA. He has looked good this spring, although he didn't make any flashy plays this Thursday.

But remember, Robinson has been active for just three games in his first two NFL seasons, and has yet to catch a pass.

Coughlin has also spoken highly in the past of Donnell, the 25-year-old undrafted free agent out of Grambling, who had three catches for 31 yards in limited action last season.

The Giants signed another undrafted free agent, Grimble, formerly of USC, last month.

But don't forget about the two six-year veterans the Giants picked up in the offseason, Davis and Fells. Both have gotten first-team reps during OTAs as well.

Davis played in 15 games for the Super Bowl champion Seahawks last season. He had just three catches for 32 yards, but caught 19 passes for 229 yards with the Bears the year before.

Fells did not play in the NFL last season, but played in 13 games for the Patriots the year before. He had just four catches for 85 yards that season, but caught 41 passes for 391 yards with the Rams back in 2010.

Coughlin had good things to say about Davis and Fells on Thursday, too.

"Both of these guys are sharp, both of these veterans," the coach said. "They know their way around on the field. Obviously they’ve been in systems before. We just like to take what they’ve done and the reason that we were attracted to them, expand that."

The Giants could still sign or acquire another player at the position. But as of now, these five will battle it out during next week's three-day minicamp, and then training camp starting in late July.

If any spot is up for grabs on the Giants, this is it.