What does the future hold for New York Giants tight end Larry Donnell? Will he reclaim his starting job after missing half of 2015 due to a neck injury? Or, could Donnell end up looking for a new NFL home?
Let's take a closer look at the big tight end as we continue to profile the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.
2015 Season in Review
After a couple of years of development on the practice squad and as a rarely-used reserve, the former Grambling quarterback emerged as an athletic pass-catching weapon for the Giants in 2014 as he caught 63 passes, six for touchdowns. The Giants hoped to see that same type of production in 2015, along with growth as a blocker that would allow Donnell to become the all-around tight end the team has been seeking.
Instead, Donnell's blocking continued to be an issue, especially after blocking tight end Daniel Fells was lost due to a case of MRSA. Donnell's production as a receiver also fell off. He averaged 7.7 yards on 29 catches over eight games, 2.2 yards less per catch than the year before. His 29 catches and two TDs would have given him 58 and four over a full season, again down from the previous season.
The biggest problem, though, was that Donnell didn't make it through the full season. An injury he has described as maybe a broken neck and maybe not a broken neck limited him to just eight games.
2016 Season Outlook
Uncertain. Donnell was cleared during the offseason to return to football and has been practicing with the Giants during the voluntary minicamp and the OTAs. There is, however, no guarantee that there is a job on the 53-man roster waiting for the 27-year-old.
In Donnell's absence last season, rookie Will Tye caught 42 passes, 40 of those from Week 5 on. The 6-foot-5, 262-pound Tye is not an accomplished blocker, but has shown potential there. The Giants drafted Jerell Adams in the sixth round and have second-year man Matt LaCosse, who impressed late in the season. The Giants also signed hybrid fullback/tight end Will Johnson in free agency, and the fifth-year player has been working exclusively as a tight end thus far.
Let's figure that Tye and Adams are locks to make the roster, if healthy. Johnson would also seem a good bet to make the roster as a blocking tight end/fullback. That leaves LaCosse and Donnell. The practice squad would be an option for LaCosse, but not for Donnell due to NFL rules. Could the Giants find a way to keep four players who's primary position is tight end?
That is a tough call.
Your thoughts, Giants fans? When it's all said and done, will Donnell earn a roster spot? Or, will the Giants be moving on without him?