The New York Giants' offense performed better than expected in 2014. Eli Manning took to Ben McAdoo's West Coast influenced offense quickly, and Odell Beckham took over the NFL. But if the Giants' passing game was lacking anything, it was a big, physical receiver.
Odell Beckham Jr, Victor Cruz, Preston Parker, and Marcus Harris are all on the small size for NFL receivers at (roughly) 6-feet, 200 pounds. And while Rueben Randle and Corey Washington both have prototypical length, both are better described as "lanky".
Geremy Davis, the Giant's 6th round selection out of UConn, brings a physical presence that the other receivers don't. At 6-foot-2½, 216 pounds, Davis is already thicker than Randle or Washington, and he looks as though his frame could carry another 5-10 pounds of muscle reasonably comfortably.
In 2013, Davis overcame inconsistent quarterback play to become the first receiver in UConn's FBS history to have a 1,000-yard season. Not a flashy athlete, Davis' physicality is his stock and trade, boxing out defenders and winning "50/50" balls.
Let's go to the tape and find out what Davis could bring to the Giants' offense.
We'll take a nice easy play to start off with. The defense is in zone coverage and Davis gets a free release off the snap. He runs a quick comeback route, taking advantage of the soft coverage to keep the offense on schedule.
Davis makes a pretty sharp cut to get back to the ball, but the quarterback still under throws him. Davis does a great job of extending and plucking the ball out of the air way away from his frame. This is only a 5-yard gain, on a play where the defense just wanted to stop a longer gain, but it is a win for Davis.
Now let's take a look at a longer play.
The defense is in man coverage this time, but it's off-man so once again Davis gets a free release. He runs a fade route, though he doesn't get much separation. Because of the TV angle, it's tough to see how much of that is the coverage -- remember, college DBs have much more freedom than the NFL allows when it comes to contacting receivers downfield -- and how much is Davis' athleticism.
The other major factor here is the quarterback play. The ball is (once again) very under thrown, forcing Davis to slow down and adjust back to the ball. If the QB had the arm or the accuracy to put the ball out in front of him, Davis very well could have gone for a touchdown.
As it is though, Davis does a nice job of going up and out-fighting the DB for the ball. He lets the ball into his chest, rather than plucking it out of the air like he did in the first play, but considering the circumstances, this is still a pretty good play.
Now let's take a look at how Davis does in a Run After Catch situation. While at its core the Giants offense is a ball control offense, Ben McAdoo wants to get the ball in skill players' hands, and put them in position to make plays. That means the ability to run after the catch is very important. One last time, the defense is in an off coverage and Davis wastes no time in getting upfield after catching the ball. He doesn't show much in the way of wiggle or elusiveness, preferring instead to lower his shoulder into a would-be tackler rather. He might have been able to make more of a gain, but the first tackler manages to hang on to his foot and slow him down while the rest of the defense swarms. Davis shows off his strength and physicality, and doesn't actually go down until after the whistle blows despite taking (by my count) six hits.
One often overlooked aspect of receiver play is blocking. Blocking has become something of a lost art for receivers in much the same way as tackling has become for defensive backs. This is a run play all the way, and UConn made absolutely no effort to disguise the fact. The play is initially designed to go to the strong-side of the formation, away from Davis. However, after the left guard releases into the second level, he completely whiffs on his block of the middle linebacker. That should have blown the play up right there, but the running back is aware enough to bounce the play outside, and Davis shows the value of good receiver blocking. The way most receivers block -- or don't block, as the case may be -- , the DB lined up across from Davis would easily be able to make the stop for a minimal gain. But in this case Davis does a nice job of blocking the DB and sealing off a running lane. That turn a 2-3 yard run into a 7 yard gain. The running back may get the stats, but the willing block from Davis made the play.
So what kind of player are the Giants getting in Geremy Davis?
I think they're getting one who is going to be very hard to cut.
He likely won't be a sensational receiver. He doesn't have the raw athleticism or "wiggle" to really burn NFL defensive backs or break big plays. But what he does have are strong, reliable hands, a very physical style of play, surprisingly decent -- both as a rookie receiver overall and in light of UConn's quarterbacking situation -- route running, and a willingness to do the down and dirty things.
Before the draft there were whispers that Davis might be well served to add weight and transition to a "move" tight end, and I can see where that sentiment is coming from. Davis plays almost like a tight end in a wide receiver's body. But personally, I think he would find his niche as a possession receiver who can bully smaller defensive backs and keep the chains moving. His blocking and physical play will work well on special teams (which, let's face it, is still missing Tyree and Derek Hagan), and could help the Giants build their revitalized screen game.
It remains to be seen whether or not Davis makes the final roster, but with some competent quarterback play he could certainly surprise.