- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Adrien Robinson has a simple-sounding goal as he embarks on his third season with the New York Giants. One of four tight ends on the roster with a shot to emerge as the Week 1 starter, Robinson is hoping to rise above the rest of his position group.
"I would hope my role is the starter," Robinson said before the Giants' first training camp practice Tuesday. "But all four of us want to be the starter, so we'll see what happens."
Not exactly a bold proclamation. But tepid is the watchword for the Giants' tight end situation. The other three in the four to which he refers are likely Kellen Davis, Larry Donnell and Daniel Fells, though he could have added undrafted Xavier Grimble in there as a fifth candidate. No one in that group has had much experience or success in the NFL, so Robinson was as good a chance as any of them to win the job.
But what's important -- and amazing -- to remember about Robinson is that he really, really, really hasn't played. Robinson has appeared in a total of three games in his first two NFL seasons (and lasted only one play in the only game he played in 2013). He hasn't caught an NFL pass, but really that's nothing new for him, as he only caught a total of 29 passes in his four years playing college football at Cincinnati.
The Giants drafted Robinson in the fourth round of the 2012 draft because he'd dazzled them with a workout in which he'd come off as a physical freak. They believed they could develop his raw skills and make him into a serviceable NFL tight end. GM Jerry Reese famously said of Robinson on draft day, "we hope he can be the JPP of tight ends," referring to 2010 first-rounder Jason Pierre-Paul, who was raw coming out of school but blossomed into a dominant player in his second season. That has, unfortunately, stuck with Robinson, though it was always unfair to compare a fourth-round flyer to a first-round pick.
Yet, with no other clear better options on the roster, here Robinson is with a chance to start at tight end for the Giants. He's engaged. He's talked about how the change from longtime tight ends coach Mike Pope to Kevin Gilbride Jr. has helped him, as his new position coach is much closer to his own age and in some ways easier for him to communicate with. He believes the new offense is a fun one in which to play tight end.
"I think the tight end moves around more than what I'm used to," Robinson said Tuesday. "And I think that could showcase my ability better."
Heck, at this point in his career, it'd be something for Robinson to showcase his ability at all. Watching him in practice Tuesday, he still looks mechanical and sometimes confused as a route-runner. He remains a work in progress. The Giants would tell you they don't need their tight end to catch many passes as long as he can block in the run game, and Robinson can definitely do that. What remains to be seen is whether he can... well, play. It's not something of which he's done very much.