News broke Monday that New York Giants tight end Daniel Fells is lost for the remainder of the 2015 season after foot surgery over the weekend.
Fells would never crack anyone's list of the top tight ends in the NFL, but the steady veteran was a source of stability for the Giants.He has been the Giants' best and most reliable blocker, while also catching -- most of -- what is thrown to him.
The other tight ends on the Giants' roster are Larry Donnell, Jerome Cunningham, and Will Tye. Donnell is a solid receiving option but a liability as a blocker. Cunningham -- who is dealing with an injury of his own -- and Tye are very athletic, but young and really more suited to the H-Back position than a traditional tight end.
Compounding the Giants' problems, Victor Cruz's return to the field suffered a setback last week, and he received a PRP (platelet rich plasma) injection to help speed the recovery of his injured calf.
The combination of injuries to Fells and Cruz complicates how the Giants can run their offense going forward. Dwayne Harris played well in the slot with a few key catches and a touchdown. However, as the Giants' primary returner and a key piece in all of their much improved special teams units, the Giants can't afford to burn Harris out.
The Giants were also able to scheme around Donnell's blocking deficiencies by avoiding plays were he would have a key block and including rookie offensive lineman Bobby Hart as a jumbo tight end when they really wanted to set a tone. However, they simply can't keep doing that for a whole season. Defenses are too good and too smart. They would only be telegraphing their intentions and limitations.
The Giants need to replace Daniel Fells and get another option over the middle.
Scenario 1 -- Here's to you, Mr. Robinson
The first scenario that the Giants could consider is to bring back Adrien Robinson. The Giants cut Robinson before the start of the 2015 season, having grown tired of waiting for him to turn his considerable athletic gifts into on-field production. However, Robinson has been through both of the Giants' offseasons with Ben McAdoo. He has caught passes from Eli Manning, blocked for Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, and Shane Vereen, he knows the scheme and the coaches.
While Robinson hasn't shown himself to be much of a receiving threat, he is a reliable blocker and comes with the smallest learning curve of the Giants' options.
Scenario 2 -- Replacing one vet with another
Last week the Giants got peoples' attention when they brought former Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley in for a workout. Cooley is a 33-year-old veteran who hasn't played since 2012. In his prime, Cooley was Washington's most reliable offensive player and had the athleticism to be a mismatch over the middle.
What does he have left? Well, he still has veteran savvy and the desire to play. Athletically? Who knows.
Scenario 3 -- Reintroduce the Black Unicorn to the wilds of New York
The Chicago Bears made headlines by apparently making all but their best young players available for trade. As a rival GM reportedly put it "Don't be afraid to ask."
Could the Giants approach (or re-approach) Chicago about trading for Martellus Bennett? He would certainly make an outstanding addition to the offense, and he knows the locker room and coaches. Bennett is probably the best blocking tight end in the NFL -- the thought of Bennett next to Ereck Flowers is a happy one from where I sit -- and a nightmare mismatch as a receiver. The question becomes the price.
Bennett was the Bears' top receiving threat in Week 4 and along with Matt Forte are the Bears' biggest offensive weapons until the return of Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White.
The Giants are a young team with a core of young talent, but Jerry Reese will want to keep as many draft picks as possible to keep building on that young core. How much is too much for Bennett?
Scenario 4 -- Get weird with it. You never go full Raptor?
Victor Cruz is also being re-evaluated today. If it is decided that he needs more than a week or two for his calf to fully heal, the Giants will need to make a difficult decision. They could move him to the temporary IR, opening yet another roster spot. They could also decide, as Pat Traina mentioned earlier, that the success of their defensive tackles, particularly Jay Bromley, Louis Nix, and Nikita Whitlock in limited action, is enough to let Markus Kuhn move to the IR.
In Pat's scenario, she had the Giants signing Wes Welker and carrying Cruz until he is healthy. That was before Fells was put on the injured reserve. The Giants could still sign Welker if Cruz is still a ways away from the field. However, another option could be to use a roster spot opened up by moving Kuhn to the injured reserve to re-sign Henry Hynoski and add another tight end -- probably Robinson based on the learning curve.
This would make for a highly unorthodox personnel grouping. Not many teams carry two fullbacks (Whitlock and Hynoski), three H-Back/move tight ends ( Donnell, Cunningham, and Tye), and just one "complete/blocking" tight end (Robinson, or maybe Bennett).
But this group does come with a couple advantages.
Hynoski allows Whitlock to play special teams and defensive snaps while also allowing the offense to use a fullback more often and establish a physical identity.
The three athletic H-Backs allow McAdoo the opportunity to change alignments and force matchup problems. And having Robinson or Bennett lets the Giants run their normal base offense with more of a threat to run the ball effectively than with Donnell.
With Fells headed to the injured reserve and decisions to be made on Cruz and Kuhn, the next couple days promise to be pretty interesting for the Giants. From here it looks like the Giants will need to make some sort of move to shore up their tight end position and open the middle of the field back up. But really, we just have to wait and see what moves they ultimately make.