Giants Tight Ends Have Big Shoes To Fill
It's not news to anyone that Eli Manning loves throwing to his tight ends. Since he arrived in 2004, the tight end position has been a key part of the New York Giants offense, and the revolving door of players who have filled that role in the nine years since have all stepped up and played major roles in the Giants' success of the last decade. In fact, Eli's propensity for going to his tight ends goes all the way back to his first career touchdown pass: a six-yard completion on a slant route to Jeremy Shockey back in November of 2004.
Remember Jeremy Shockey? Of course you do. His off-the-field antics were about as loud as his play was on the field, and for six seasons, he was the go-to guy in the Giants' passing game. His leg injury late in the 2007 season paved the way for the next man in line for the Giants' tight end throne, Kevin Boss, who solidified his starting position with a huge catch and run in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLII. From there, Boss quickly became one of Manning's favorite targets over the next few seasons until he was signed by the Raiders prior to the 2011 season.
In 2011, it was none other than Jake Ballard and Bear Pascoe who stepped up and filled the big shoes that Boss left behind. Ballard was a vital part of the Giants' 2011 Super Bowl run, and Pascoe caught a huge, momentum-swinging touchdown pass in the NFC title game that tied it at 7-7 after a first quarter that was mostly dominated by San Francisco.
When Ballard was released prior to the 2012 season, the Giants signed former Cowboys TE Martellus Bennett to join Pascoe at the tight end position. Bennett quickly grew into the role and enjoyed the most productive season of his career, but his stay was short-lived, and he left for Chicago this past offseason.
Now, Eli Manning and the Giants are going on their fifth different starting tight end in the last decade after bringing in former Raiders TE Brandon Myers back in March. Myers enjoyed a career year last season in Oakland, catching 79 balls for 806 yards and four touchdowns, which seem like pretty middle-of-the-road numbers until you consider the fact that he did all of that while part of an Oakland Raiders offense that couldn't get out of its own way for most of the season. He figures to be a prominent part of the Giants offense this season not only in the passing game, but also as a blocker in the running game. Myers has the kind of athleticism that should allow him to play a key role in the Giants' offensive game plan, and he's similar in a lot of ways to Kevin Boss (albeit slightly shorter). These characteristics are exactly what Manning likes in his tight ends — big, athletic receivers with soft hands who are reliable on third-down situations and who can get open in the middle of the field — and it's only a matter of time (probably a game or two) before he becomes one of Eli's favorite targets.
As for Bear Pascoe, expect him to contribute a lot more to the offense this season. He has been hidden mostly in the shadows in his four seasons as a Giant thus far, only catching four passes last season (one of them for a touchdown). However, Pascoe is big at 6-5 and 283 pounds, and his size enables him to serve as an excellent blocker, where he was used frequently last season. He’s also a major asset when it comes to blocking for the run game. Most of all, he's a reliable and versatile player who can serve almost as a utility man for the Giants.