Every day during training camp New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin holds a post-practice press conference. Every day Coughlin is asked at least one question about how the tight ends are doing and if anyone is standing out. Monday was no exception.
"They have all worked hard and they do make plays. Today we had a couple nice plays made," Coughlin said. "Not one but I think they are making progress."
Tight ends coach Kevin M. Gilbride Jr. said Monday that the team is looking for a "jack of all trades" tight end.
"There have been guys that have made strides in different areas so right now we're looking for the complete tight end who can do it all," Gilbride said on Monday. "But we also need guys who are role players, guys who can be specialists in certain areas, as far as if he's best at executing a certain block, he's going to the have the opportunity to make those plays in the game. If he's best at a certain route, he's going to have the opportunity to make those plays during the game. So I think you need both. You need to have the all-around tight and then you also have to have specialists, guys who are great at that particular role.
"I think you can get it done with the specialist-type thing, but that's not really what we're looking for. What we're really looking for is to develop a number of overall tight ends who can do it all and can contribute to our team because that's what you need in order to be overly successful and be at the position itself to help the team win games."
Let's take a look at the five candidates for the job and see how they are all performing thus far.
Perhaps surprisingly Donnell was listed No. 1 among tight ends on the unofficial depth chart the Giants released last week.The third-year man from Grambling was one of the tight ends who stood out on Monday, making a spectacular leaping catch of a seam route from Ryan Nassib. Donnell did a complete somersault, popped up to his feet and never even so much as juggled the ball.
The play was an example of the 6-foot-6, 265-pound Donnell's athleticism. He has shown some blocking ability and some comfort moving around and lead-blocking at fullback. Right now it might Donnell rather Adrien Robinson who is nudging ahead among the young tight ends on the roster. Donnell had the advantage of practicing all of last season and getting a handful of game reps.
"I think anytime you get experience playing in the course of a game and being in the limelight, so to speak, as far as the atmosphere, the intensity of it, going against a player with a different color jersey on, it's great experience for you," said Gilbride. "So it does, it helps and there's no doubt about it. But he is still a very young player in that regard as well. It's not like he had a ton of reps through the course of the season last year so the development still needs to continue there as well for his poise, for his execution, in the course of the games."
Maybe more surprising than Donnell being listed No. 1 on that depth chart was Robinson, the 2012 fourth-round draft pick, being listed fifth. Robinson has had an up and down training camp. He has made some excellent catches, and dropped a few easy ones.
"Good and bad. It's inconsistent and it needs to improve in that regard," Gilbride said. "He has flashes of great things and shows you what he can do if he can continue it and continue to develop. But he needs to continue to develop in order to help us."
The seven-year veteran was out of the NFL last season, but the 30-year-old is actually the most accomplished tight end on the roster. Fells has 92 career catches. Thus far in camp Fells has also probably been the most consistent tight end of the group. On Monday, Fells caught a touchdown pass from Eli Manning while operating as part of the Giants' goal-line offense.
The veteran tight end signed with the Giants after spending last season with the Seattle Seahawks. To this point, he has been much less noticeable than either Fells or Donnell. Davis has only 50 receptions in six seasons. If he finds a role with the Giants it will be as a pure blocker.
The undrafted free agent from USC made an impression during OTAs and mini-camp, but has been sidelined for a few days with a hamstring issue. Grimble needs to get on the field -- soon -- if he is going to have a chance. Practices, and especially the preseason game, are critical for the young players. Grimble can't afford to miss too many of them.