Seth Wenig/Associated Press
Prior to the start of training camp, the feeling was that tight end Adrien Robinson, the team’s 2012 fourth-round draft pick, would begin camp as the leader for the starting job.
That has not been the case, as according to the unofficial depth chart released by the team, it’s Larry Donnell, an undrafted free agent, who is listed as the starter.
As I noted in my article on Donnell from last month, he has a little more upside than Robinson at this point because he has been able to stay healthy, and he has some experience.
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Donnell has played in 107 offensive snaps thus far to Robinson’s three, all of which came in 2012.
Despite the experience, tight ends coach Kevin M. Gilbride told me that Donnell is still a work in progress.
“I think anytime you get experience playing in the course of a game and being in the limelight, so to speak, as far as the atmosphere, the intensity of it, going against a player with a different color jersey on, it’s great experience for you,” Gilbride said.
“So it does, it helps and there’s no doubt about it, but he is still a very young player in that regard as well. It’s not like he had a ton of reps through the course of the season last year so the development still needs to continue there as well for his poise, for his execution, in the course of the games.”
Last year, Donnell’s biggest issue wasn’t so much his run blocking as it was his route-running—he often rounded out his routes and thus was not where the quarterback expected him to be.
So far in training camp, he seems to have corrected that issue, running crisper routes with the starting unit, and taking advantage of the experience gained in the previous offense where he was asked to line up as an in-line blocker, an H-back and a fullback.
For his part, Donnell told ESPN’s Dan Graziano that the depth chart doesn’t mean anything right now.
"I'm just trying to do everything I can do to show the coaches I can do all of the right things as a player, so if that role comes my way, I can handle it," he said. "I just want to do the best I can to show I'm worthy of being here."