Martellus Bennett runs with the ball against the Giants in 2010 (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
I promised you guys a while back that if you sent me questions I would start answering them 'Big Blue View Mailbag' style. Well, since some of you did send me questions now seems like a good time to dip into the mailbag and see what we have.
Today's question comes from 'Sam J.'
Question: Hey, I was wondering what BBV's expectations were for Martellus Bennett. Thanks.
What do I expect from Martellus Bennett, the tight end the New York Giants signed recently as a free agent? Thanks for the question, Sam. This is a topic we needed to delve into at some point, anyway, so here goes.
When I think of Bennett the comparison that leaps to mind is former Giants tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. Recall that the Giants drafted Shiancoe in the third round of the 2003 NFL Draft (91st overall), but that Shiancoe had the misfortune of playing behind Jeremy Shockey when Shockey was at his best.
In four seasons with the Giants Shiancoe caught just 35 passes while being used primarily as a blocker or as a fill-in when Shockey missed time with injuries.
Shiancoe left the Giants prior to the 2007 season, signing a rich long-term deal with the Minnesota Vikings. Shiancoe has justified the surprisingly rich five-year contract he signed in Minnesota by averaging 41.6 receptions per season the past five years.
I believe the Giants could see something similar with Bennett. That is precisely what the Giants were thinking, it seems, when they got Bennett to sign a one-year, $1.25-million contract that basically amounts to a "prove it" deal for the 25-year-old Bennett.
"What you have is a talented athlete who played behind an all-pro," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said when the signing was announced. "Who is not very satisfied, is not very fulfilled, is anxious. He is anxious to prove the quality of athlete and football player that he can be. If you go back to '08, '09, '10, '11, you can see spots where he flashes as what he could be.
"He feels like he hasn't scratched the surface of what he can do. And he's a young, aspiring, athletic tight end who can run. He'll be up the seams at 6-6, 265. He can run up the seams with speed and be up over the top of a lot of people. So we're excited about that. He's got a ways to go, but he'll work at it. This could be a terrific move for both him and us."
The 6-foot-7, 248-pound Bennett was drafted in the second round (61st overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. He, of course, ended up stuck behind All-Pro Jason Witten. Bennett had 85 receptions in his four seasons with Dallas.
Witten, for one, believes Bennett will be a success with the Giants.
"I think his confidence was probably shaken a little bit in Dallas,'' Witten said. "Few plays, his numbers were limited, so I'm sure that's a part of it. He's a good blocker, he's a good underneath route runner, he's big so he can catch the ball. I think, more than anything, getting his confidence back and getting a fresh start will do a lot for his career.
"I know he kind of fits that power offense and Mike Pope is one of the best tight ends coaches there is. Anybody who plays the position knows that about him. He does a good job of eliminating distractions and allowing his players to be the best. I think he's done that for many, many years, going back to [Jeremy] Shockey and taking a guy like Ballard who's undrafted and getting him to play at a high level. So a key component in that is Mike and that system. Coach Coughlin, no tolerance for any of that stuff. If you leave those distractions aside, Martellus is going to do a good job.''
If Bennett becomes a 40-catch per season tight end, which he seems to have the capability of doing, that equals the passing game productivity of both Kevin Boss and Ballard in recent seasons. More than that would be a huge bonus.
Bennett should also help the Giants' running game. His Pro Football Focus run-blocking grades the past three seasons are +8.9, +9.8 and +8.2.
I would expect Bennett to be a very good player for the Giants. If that doesn't happen, the brilliance of the one-year contract he signed with the Giants is that both sides can simply move on.