With Kevin Boss taking Al Davis's money and running to the Oakland Raiders, how does that impact the New York Giants offense? My guess is that what we have seen the past couple of evenings during training camp practice sessions is very instructive.
What we have seen a lot of, first and foremost is third-year man Travis Beckum. Because we have seen a lot of Beckum, we have seen some subtle changes to the offense. That is a trend that is likely to continue unless the Giants choose to bring in another traditional tight end.
Earlier in the week Giants coach Tom Coughlin referred to Beckum's "special skill set" and said that for the Wisconsin grad to play full time the Giants would need to "change some things in the run game."
What the Giants have showcased a lot during the time I have been here are formations with Beckum split a few yards off the line of scrimmage, with Pascoe or another tight end lined up either inside or in the backfield. Occasionally we have seen undrafted rookie free agent Henry Hynoski lined up as a pure fullback. In the end, we might even see the use of an extra lineman at tight end, as we often saw last season. We have seen Beckum split wide at times, and lined up as part of a tight "trips" formation bunched with a pair of other receivers.
So, if the Giants ultimately decide to go with Beckum on more of a full-time basis you will see less in the way of traditional sets with him, and much more maneuverability. Beckum may even emerge as an option in the slot, where the Giants are looking for someone to step into the Steve Smith role.
Coughlin wants more consistency from Beckum. "He makes a great play and then a not so good play," Coughlin said.
There is little on the free-agent market right now in terms of quality tight ends. There has been media speculation in recent days about the possibility of the Giants trading for Seattle's John Carlson. He was displaced in Seattle by the signing of Zach Miller, which ultimately left the opening in Oakland that Boss took. Carlson has 137 catches in his three-year career, 13 for touchdowns. His 31 catches last season were his lowest full-season total.
"The guys that are here are going to have to prove to us that we can continue and run the offense we want to run," Coughlin said. "If we have to make adjustments, we will do it."
Left unsaid, but obvious, is that even if the Giants go with Beckum on a regular basis they do not want to compromise their ability to play power football with their running game. With their current crop of tight ends, they might just have to get a little creative to get that done.
Here is a quick look at the five tight ends the Giants have in camp:
A 6-foot-3, 240-pound third-year player. Fans have been calling for Beckum to get more opportunities, and if that is ever going to happen the time is now. Beckum caught 13 passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns a season ago.
Beckum will never be physical enough to be a full-time in-line blocking tight end, but the Giants could decide to move him around and get that in-line blocking from other sources.
"I'm ready to do whatever I have to do and whatever they ask me to do. I think that I have done a good job with whatever they asked me to do," Beckum said today. "I took advantage of everything, whether it was coming out of the backfield, at the Y or being in there during goal line. Whatever they asked me to do, I am willing to do it."
The third-year player out of Fresno State was immensely valuable to the Giants last year, moving to fullback when Madison Hedgecock got hurt. He appears headed for a move back to tight end this season, though you could also see him moving around and occasionally lining up in the backfield as a lead blocker. Pascoe caught nine passes for the Giants a season ago.
Coughlin hinted Friday that, as things stand right now, the 6-foot-6, 276-pound Ballard is likely Pascoe's primary competition for that blocking role. Ballard played one game last season and spent much fo the year on the practice squad. Ballard has been impressive thus far in camp catching the ball, but it will be his ability to clear holes for running backs and protect Eli Manning on passing downs that determines whether or not he has a chance to make the team.
A four-year NFL veteran recently signed from the Arizona Cardinals. Patrick has 45 career catches, and is thought to have been an under-achiever thus far in his career. He has some skills, though, and with the Giants' situation being what it is might get a good chance to showcase them for the next few weeks.
A 6-foot-5, 255-pound rookie free agent. Right now he would appear to have little chance of making the final 53-man roster.