New York Giants Preseason: Four Tight Ends Vying to Replace Kevin Boss
It didn't come as much of a surprise by the time the signing was announced. Rumors had been circulating for days, and there seemed to be more substance to them by the hour.
Yet despite the warning signs and protracted period of time when it was "very likely" that he wouldn't be coming back, the Giants are at a loss to replace the 6'7" tight end's frame (and hands).
There were five candidates initially before newly signed Ben Patrick abruptly retired late Saturday. The list is now down to four before a game has been played, and the competition appears to be wide open.
Keep in mind, ultimately the likely scenario is that no one will actually replace Boss. It will probably be up to a combination of two or three of the group to fill his rather large shoes.
Here's a look at the possible replacements.
No. 4: Christian Hopkins, the Outsider
Not too much is known about Hopkins to be honest. From what he showed at practice Friday, that might be where it stays too.
The impression he does give is that he is an enormous man, even for a tight end.
But that is no guarantee of a spot, especially considering he has hasn't looked particularly good at catching in practice.
He did haul in more than 1,200 yards receiving during his four years at Toledo, adding 13 touchdowns to boot.
And he spent last season playing for the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL.
Hopkins has by far the smallest chance right now of making the team.
No. 3: Jake Ballard, the Kevin Boss Body Double
If nothing else, Jake Ballard looks the part. And by that, I mean he's nearly the same height and weight as Kevin Boss.
Beyond that, he's another mystery as far as being a pass-catcher. His blocking is generally considered his strength.
Even in college as a four-year player for Ohio State, he managed only 34 receptions for 377 yards and only three touchdowns (all the touchdowns came in his first two years).
“I ran a lot this offseason trying to work on my speed and my cuts,” Ballard told the media on Friday before practice. “I am trying to be more a two-way threat instead of just a blocking tight end, but I know that’s where I am going to get on the team, as a blocker. I am going to keep trying to get better in the passing aspects of the game.”
No. 2: Bear Pascoe, We Know He Can Block...
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Pascoe subbed in beautifully last season at fullback, and he proved that he's as versatile as he is competent (at least in blocking).
But again, can he catch?
That remains to be seen.
This season, he seems to be a tight end once again.
"Since camp started, I've just been in the tight end room," said Pascoe on Friday. "So as of right now, I think that's where I'll be staying, as a tight end."
He also seems to have a feel for the game plan, noting "I feel very confident in the offense."
In practice Friday, he showed some of that confidence, shaking off coverage by linebacker Michael Boley to make a good catch.
Yet only time and game-play will show if he truly can become a safety valve for Eli Manning.
No. 1: Travis Beckum, We Know He Can Catch...
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Beckum is the only one on this list who looks to be able to fill Boss's shoes in terms of the receiving yards.
And yet, he's never had more than 13 catches in a season.
But he proved at Wisconsin that he can be a big-play threat from the tight end position.
In 2006 and 2007, he had 900 yards receiving in each year (and he would have put up comparable numbers in his senior season had he not broken his leg in October).
Can he replicate that in the pros? It remains to be seen.