Second-round pick Sterling Shepard justifiably drew raves throughout spring practices for the New York Giants. Victor Cruz got tons of attention for, well, for finally doing something. Undrafted free agent Roger Lewis got some buzz, both for his performance and for his back story. One player we probably have not discussed enough in the competition for roster spots at wide receiver is Darius Powe, an undrafted free agent from Cal.
Let's correct that today by focusing on Powe as we continuing profiling the 90-man roster he Giants will bring to training camp later this month.
2015 Season in Review
Powe played with quarterback Jared Goff, the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. The 2015 season was a breakout one for Powe, who caught a career-high 47 passes (he had 45 combined the previous two seasons) for 560 yards and an average of 11.9 yards per catch. Perhaps the number that should stick out to the Giants is eight -- the number of touchdown the 6-foot-3, 220-pound receiver scored.
2016 Season Outlook
It is perhaps that big frame that gives Powe an opportunity to get a long training camp look from the Giants. Shepard, Cruz, Odell Beckham and Dwayne Harris -- the top four receivers -- are all smaller in stature. Only 2015 sixth-round pick Geremy Davis and French free agent Anthony Dable have size comparable to that of Powe among the wide receiver candidates.
Look at his numbers and watch his film and what you see is a big-bodied possession receiver with the ability to go up in traffic and snatch the ball with his hands. Hakeem Nicks used to be that guy for the Giants, and ever since injuries began to eat into his skills the Giants have been looking for a replacement.
The Giants were not good in the red zone or on third down last season, something they recognize. Here is offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan discussing those issues during the spring.
"Really there are two areas where we took a hard look at ourselves and looking at last season where we can improve, it starts with what we call the green zone - red zone, putting points on the board - we struggled, we were 29th in the league and as we studied ourselves, too many of those mistakes were self-inflicted. We had a lot of turnovers, some penalties that pushed us back, some missed assignments. We've got to get better in that area," Sullivan said. And secondly, third down - you know third down, we finished 22nd in the league and we've got to be able to sustain drives so that if we get down into the green zone, put points on the board, and those are two situations that you know we need to improve upon."
Small, quick wide receivers who can find creases and get yards after catch will help. So would development from the tight ends, more consistent use of running back Shane Vereen in key spots and a better running game. A big wide receiver who can take contested balls away from the defense would also come in handy.
SB Nation columnist Thomas George wrote an excellent piece on Powe during the spring. Here is a section of it:
"He would have played on every special teams if we had let him, but as the season went on he became too valuable at receiver," [Cal receivers coach Jacob] Peeler said. "He is a guy we trusted on the field at all times. This year we had two receivers drafted and four make it as free agents, including Darius. Darius is one of those people that make your room better, who lights up a room, who brings energy and excitement every single day. Always respectful, always smiling. He ran a 4.4 on his pro day. The scouts were shocked that a guy his size can run like that. And because of what he can do on special teams, he is a natural for the Giants. I truly believe he has not come anywhere close to his peak. He is only 22 and is working on his craft. The best is ahead of him."
The Giants have been searching for a primary, effective, big red-zone target. Powe fits. The Giants need youth and strength at the position. Powe has it. His blocking skills emulate that longtime staple of the Giants best receivers.
He is not among the Giants by accident.
"From a physical standpoint," said Giants offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, "he's what you're looking for. You see him make plays. Now it's all about how quickly he can take the volume from the meetings to the practice field. He'll be thrown the kitchen sink. Can he process and play fast? He's able to separate. He makes contested catches. He has a big catch radius. You know, greatness can come from anywhere."
Here are few tidbits from a lengthy scouting report on Powe by Dave-Te Thomas, written after Powe signed with the Giants after the draft.
"Powe has a solidly built frame with room to carry at least another fifteen pounds of bulk with no loss in quickness."
"... has ideal size for today's NFL receiver with long limbs for his position, showing marked improvement in his route running skills last season. ... has the athletic skills to develop, but will need patient coaching to teach him the intricacies of the game."
"He takes well to hard coaching and shows a tireless work ethic in practices. He has really taken well to the coaches' program and while he still has a long way to go technique wise, he will not hesitate to ask questions or stay after practices to work on his route running."
There is much more of interest in the work from Thomas, but I won't spoil the fun of letting you go read it yourself.
How things will work out for Powe is impossible to know. What we do know, though, is that he will be a player to watch when the Giants report for training camp.