New York Giants tight end Martellus Bennett has been known as a player with tons of potential, but he never had enough focus to put the whole package together...until now.
Bennett is on a new team in 2012 after spending the past few seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, and he has finally started playing like the player the Cowboys thought he would be. Unfortunately for the 'Boys, he's doing it for their NFC East rivals.
Bennett's fatal flaw is one Green Bay Packers fans can relate to with Jermichael Finley: He dropped way too many passes.
After a few drops in the Giants' season opener against the Cowboys, Bennett seems to be much more focused and determined to keep his eye on the ball instead of looking to make plays before he's fully secured incoming passes.
He caught one touchdown in each of the team's first two games, and as of this moment, he's already done it again in the team's third game against the Carolina Panthers.
Bennett is clearly taking full advantage of his opportunity to reinvent himself as a football player, and as long as he continues to make strides in the right direction, he's going to be a dangerous weapon for the Giants in 2012, and perhaps beyond.
Bennett isn't the only NFL player who is inventing himself in 2012 with different teams, though. Let's take a look at two other players who have embraced the opportunity to start anew.
Randy Moss, Wide Receiver, San Francisco 49ers
While Bennett is discovering he can play with the big boys, Moss is taking a different path—one that's having no less of an impact on his respective team.
Michael Crabtree is having his best start as a pro in his fourth year (13 receptions for 143 yards), and it's partly due to the fact that he's healthy to start a season for the first time. Another key aspect that most national media are missing is the relationship developing between Crabtree and Moss; A relationship that is paying dividends for Crabtree on the field.
Crabtree has long been criticized for his overall demeanor, and it's been clear that he hasn't known how to respond to the criticism. This summer, Moss has taken him under his wing.
According to Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group, Crabtree said this of Moss in a recent interview: "He makes me feel like I can be myself. You can learn from a guy like that. You don't have to change for nobody. All you have to do is be yourself and play your game."
Additionally, teammates and coaches alike have been gushing since the start of training camp about Moss' influence in team meetings and in the locker room. Head coach Jim Harbaugh went as far as to say this:
In the classroom, he sits in the front row, he soaks up the knowledge and also gives the feedback, too. He's a coach. He's like a coach. You know, like the way Alex Smith is now becoming. I mean Alex knows as much as anybody, as much as any of our offensive coaches do at this point. And Randy has picked it up so fast because he's seen so much football (h/t KNBR AM).
And folks wondered if Moss could play nice if he wasn't "the man."
Moss has only caught five passes for 61 yards and one touchdown so far in 2012, but his impact is being felt on every play, whether he's on the field or not.
Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Denver Broncos
If ever a player had to redefine himself, it's Manning.
Not only is Manning attempting to win games with an entirely new team after spending the past 13 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, but he's doing so after four neck surgeries that have left him with less arm strength than he had before.
He never had a cannon for an arm to begin with, so this transition isn't going as smoothly as Manning or the Broncos would have liked.
Through the preseason and the two games in the regular system, Manning has floated passes from time to time in a way I've never seen from the sure-fire Hall of Famer.
His three interceptions against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 2 were crystal-clear examples that his arm strength has significantly deteriorated, especially on throws to his right.
Manning knows he can't throw the ball like he used to, and now he and the Broncos have to come up with the best way to utilize the talents he still has: Namely his brain and ability to read defenses.
No longer will we see Manning throwing darts down sidelines and in the post over the top of defenses. His big plays are going to come on shorter throws that his receivers take for yards after the catch. Manning isn't the same player he once was, but that doesn't mean he can't still do big things this year and in the future.
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