As we continue running through our series of New York Giants positional reviews, today is a perfect day to discuss the tight end position. In today's notebook, one of the items was about tight end Kevin Boss having hip surgery, so since the Bossman's name is in the news today let's talk tight end.
Boss has always been one of my favorite Giants, both as a player and as an interview subject. On the field he has proven to be as tough as anyone, taking a slew of vicious hits over the years and continuing to come back for more, and he has also been fairly productive when the ball has come his way. Off the field I have had the opportunity to interview him on a couple of occasions and he is as gracious and cooperative as you might imagine.
All of that said, what we are really discussing today is whether or not we believe Boss is the future answer at tight end for the Giants.
For the past couple of seasons I have been hoping to see Boss's role in the Giants' passing attack expand. He went from 33 catches in 2008 to 42 in 2009, and I was really hoping to see 50 or more in 2010. Instead, Boss caught only 35 balls this season.
Did the Giants use him less? No. Eli Manning threw 65 balls in Boss's direction in 2009, and 66 this season. The difference? In 2009, Boss dropped one ball. In 2010, Boss dropped 11 -- an amazing 16.6% of passes thrown in his direction. Among tight ends, only Brandon Pettigrew of Detroit (12) dropped more passes. Four wide receivers, Brandon Marshall of Miami, Steve Johnson of Buffalo, Wes Welker of New England and Pierre Garcon of Indianapolis, had 13 drops. All of those receivers were targeted more than 100 times.
So, what's up with Boss? Is he ever going to be a 60-70 catch weapon for the Giants? Did he just have an off year? Pro Football Focus graded Boss at -2.9 overall and -4.8 in the passing game in 2010. In 2009, PFF had Boss at +17.4. Boss's pass-catching obviously suffered in 2010, and his run-blocking was not as good, either. PFF graded him -2.9 in that category, after being a +10.2 the previous season.
Boss came into 2010 having had off-season ankle surgery, and he was slowed in training camp. We now know he was bothered throughout the season by a hip injury. He suffered another concussion. Was he slowed by the injuries? Probably some, but none of those should have caused him to drop more balls.
Boss, 27, is now a free agent. The decline in production leaves the Giants with a very difficult decision to make. Do they let Boss walk and rebuild the position around Travis Beckum, Bear Pascoe or a tight end acquired via draft or free agency? Do they pass off 2010 as a poor season from a good player and pay Boss big money? Do they try to re-sign him at a lower base salary. maybe to an incentive-laden type contract?
The Giants, as we know, are traditional in their thinking about the tight end. Yet, it's pretty obvious that an effective tight end could really help Manning. Third-down, goal-line and in the poor weather conditions the Giants often play in toward the end of the season. Boss made some nice catches this season, but overall he probably hurt his quarterback more than he helped him.
I would not object to the Giants bringing Boss back. I would also, however, not blame them for moving on and trying to upgrade this position. What would you do with Boss, Giants fans?
Overall Grade: Wet Willie
Before I finish, I should spend a little time discussing Beckum. He caught 13 balls this season, including two for touchdowns. He was on the field a lot more this season, and with the amount of time he played I might have expected more catches. Which leads me to this question: Do the Giants not use him well (possible), or does he simply have difficulty running crisp routes and getting open (also possible)? He can catch, though he still can't block. Overall, he is a disappointment after two seasons.
Overall Grade: Wet Willie