While the New York Giants were defeating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, they lost a key component of their offense for the 2012 season. Jake Ballard, an undrafted free agent who made the most of his opportunity as the starting tight end, tore his ACL in that game.
He was expected to miss all of the 2012 season. In anticipation of this, the Giants placed him on waivers hoping he would clear so they could place him on the PUP list to begin the year. The idea was to keep hope that he could return in the middle of the season.
Unfortunately, the Patriots snatched him off waivers in a move that was clearly made out of spite.
How will the Giants overcome the loss of their starting tight end? Here are three ways.
One way they attempted to mitigate the loss of Ballard was signing former second round pick Martellus Bennett this offseason. Bennett had a disappointing four years with the Dallas Cowboys—all four of his career touchdowns came in his rookie season.
It is difficult to get a read on how this signing will affect the team. One thing the Giants are sure of is they got a terrific blocker, which was his primary role with Dallas. Coming from a run-first offense at Texas A&M, this was never a problem for Bennett.
The issues he had in Dallas were staying motivated, always giving 100 percent and constantly dropping easy passes. All of these are fixable issues, and a change of venue could be what he needed.
At 6'7'', he provides Eli Manning with a big target over the middle and in the red zone. Bennett is excited to play with Eli, whom he called an "unselfish quarterback," according to Mike Garafolo of the Newark Star-Ledger.
"I don’t think there’s a better quarterback than him in the NFL right now," Bennett said. "Watching his approach to the game and the way he coaches everybody up and gets everybody involved, I think he’s an unselfish quarterback, which is what you want. He throws a very catchable ball, which is always awesome. He’s a great guy, a great quarterback."
Hopefully this optimism and new attitude translates to production on the field.
Like they say in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: "rule number one: always have a contingency plan." Jerry Reese has his plan A in Martellus Bennett, and the clear plan B is 2012 fourth round pick Adrien Robinson of Cincinnati.
Robinson is as athletically gifted as any tight end coming out of the draft, but was not utilized all that often in college. He had a mere 12 catches in 2011, and 29 for his whole career.
Robinson is quite literally built like former Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, standing 6'4'', 264 pounds, despite running a blistering 4.51 40-yard dash. Jerry Reese referred to him as the "JPP of tight ends." That is high praise, but it also lends one to believe Robinson may not be ready to contribute right away.
Reese said this after the draft this past April, according to the report linked above by the New York Times:
"A guy we haven’t talked about—our first fourth-round pick is Adrien Robinson, the tight end from Cincinnati. We really think this guy has a huge up-side. He is a big, big man; long arms. He didn’t catch a lot of balls for them. But he is kind of a late bloomer who has really come on. And we think this guy is kind of a JPP of tight ends. We like these kind of people. We will get Mike Pope involved with this guy. We brought him in for one of the visits. We are excited about him. We think he can really come on and develop and be a terrific football player for us. So it is very exciting for us to get him."
His blocking is certainly up to the NFL standard, but he needs to develop more ability in the passing game. Robinson is an exciting prospect, and the Giants may have gotten a steal this past April.
Though Bear Pascoe has emerged as the starting tight end during these few weeks of mini-camps, few expect him to be the starting tight end on opening day, including offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.
“Except for TE Bear (Pascoe), there is nobody that has done it before. You are hoping to have Bear as a swing guy, a second tight end—he could motion back and play the fullback position—give you what he has always given you which is unbelievable toughness and somehow making plays that maybe you don’t think that he should be able to make. He always seems to make them for you—not necessarily as your starting tight end. But right now he is the starting tight end.”
Gilbride hit the nail on the head. Pascoe is a reliable option and can play all over the field, but he's not a long term solution as the starting tight end. He is not a great run blocker and does not possess great speed.
That said, the Giants trust Pascoe and his knowledge of the offense, and Eli Manning will not hesitate to get him the ball. He will be a great backup for Marty B.