The thing about the "overnight" arrival of Larry Donnell as a star NFL tight end is that it really didn't happen overnight. For the New York Giants, the former college quarterback has been a three-year project.
"You always have to remember, he's very green so his development has taken its course. He needed reps and he needed to have the opportunity," tight ends coach Kevin M. Gilbride Jr. said this week. "His development comes, again, through confidence. He always had the ability to do that, it was a matter of him being able to calm himself down and just play the game.
"That's an area that he's grown leaps and bounds in the passing game and is improving in the run game. He continues to need to progress in that area. Yes, I thought he always had it in him but there's a lot of guys you see that have the talent in them and we have to get it out of them and they have to get it out of themselves."
Donnell, an undrafted free agent from Grambling who began his collegiate career as a quarterback, has actually been with the Giants for three seasons. He was on the practice squad in 2012, played 16 games primarily on special teams last season and blossomed into a legitimate NFL tight end this season.
Donnell is second on the Giants in receptions with 33, one behind Rueben Randle. He has those 33 catches in 41 targets, while Randle has 34 catches in 58 targets. Donnell also has four touchdowns.
On the negative side, he has three fumbled and the 6-foot-6, 270-pound Donnell's run-blocking (-3.2 Pro Football Focus score) is still developing.
Here is Gilbride's thought on Donnell's run-blocking:
"He's an athletic guy. At times he lacks confidence in that area and that affects him," Gilbride's said. "When he just comes off the ball and delivers a blow, he can do some good things. He's an explosive guy. I think the number one area he needs to improve on is his confidence in that area."
And about those fumbles:
"The fumbles, that's an area where ... I always want him to fight for every extra yard he can get ... You always want guys fighting for that extra yard and that was the case the other day," Gilbride said. "That was a great play getting that football out by that defender. He had good ball security, the only thing that he could have done differently was have that fifth point that we talk about all the time, squeeze down on that ball, but that was it. That was a great play by the defender getting the football out."