The New York Giants have a new starting tight end for the fourth time in as many years. And while Kevin Boss, Jake Ballard and Martellus Bennett were all quality weapons (to varying degrees), newbie Brandon Myers could be a more productive receiving threat that any of those three predecessors.
Among tight ends in 2012, Myers finished fourth in the league with 79 catches and sixth with 806 yards. Ballard and Bennett were arguably better athletes, but their receiving numbers didn't hold a candle to those of Myers.
He also caught 78.2 percent of the passes he was targeted on last season, which ranked first in the league among tight ends who were thrown at at least 50 times (per Pro Football Focus). Bennett caught only 62.5 percent of the passes he was targeted on. Ballard was 66.7 in 2011 and Boss was 53.0 in 2010.
Those guys had Eli Manning, while Myers had Carson Palmer.
But it's not all good news. Myers was rated by PFF as the worst run-blocking tight end and the seventh-worst pass-blocking tight end in football last season. The Raiders didn't take a lot of sacks (Myers didn't give up any but surrendered nine hurries, which was the second-highest total in the league), but they averaged just 3.8 yards per carry.
Bennett, again for the sake of comparison, gave up just two hurries all season and was rated by PFF as the 13th-best run-blocking tight end in football. Ballard and Boss were also considered to be much better blockers and fared better in pass protection.
The contents of the last two paragraphs are a big reason why Myers was only able to land a one-year, $2.25 million contract on the open market. Ordinarily, a 27-year-old tight end with those kinds of receiving stats would get a lot more love in free agency, but teams might fear that he can't do the "small things" right.
The Giants have the fourth-year veteran Bear Pascoe and 2012 fourth-round pick Adrien Robinson on the roster, but neither player should be expected to take on a major role in 2013. Robinson is still green and Pascoe isn't a good enough blocker to become a consistent early-down option.
With that in mind, the Giants could still go tight end in the draft, or they could sit back and hope that Myers can come into his own in those areas. He didn't exactly receive a lot of support in Oakland and had only 12 career starts under his belt before his breakout campaign.
In Myers' defense, Pro Football Focus is only a complementary device for assessing a player's contributions. I went back and watched a ton of Oakland games from 2012 to get a better feel for his ability as a blocker and came away less disgusted than expected.
His worst game as a run-blocker, according to PFF, came against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 7. But I saw some very good things from Myers on that day.
Here's an example of a running play from that game that didn't look good on paper, but it was actually all on Darren McFadden. You can see Myers on the right side of the line. His job is to take care of Austen Lane so that McFadden can cut up behind him:
He does his job perfectly:
But McFadden trips over his own feet:
Ultimately, though, he did appear to be overmatched far too often. Here, he is getting plowed backward by Tamba Hali, despite having support from Marcel Reese, in a Week 8 matchup with Kansas City:
That would result in a loss of yardage for McFadden. Later in the same quarter, he plays the role of a turnstile against Justin Houston:
That would result in a four-yard loss.
Another sample from a matchup with Jason Worilds and the Steelers in Week 3:
And against the Denver Broncos in Week 4 (you'll just have to trust me that he's buried underneath that pile on what was nearly a safety):
Yes, you can cherry-pick poor blocking moments for any tight end in the league, and that's why I pointed out the stellar blocking he didn't get credit for above. I saw some good things from Myers on the tape, but I also saw too many plays like the four I cited from those games against Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Denver.
Giants fans should be excited about Manning's new toy, but they should also fear what Myers' presence could mean for Manning's space in the pocket and David Wilson's running lanes.