When it comes to teaching and developing tight ends, no one has done it longer, and better, than Giants' TE coach Michael Pope. This summer, Pope is enjoying the riches of having both veteran and rising stars in his unit.
The Giants usually carry three TEs on their roster, but this year they may expand that number. Based on TE coach Mike Pope's presser yesterday, the Giants may have plans for four players at the position: Bear Pascoe, Adrien Robinson, Brandon Myers and Larry Donnell.
Myers, Pascoe and Robinson were expected to make the roster going into camp. Three others: Donnell, Jamie Childers and Chase Clement are longshots. But things may be changing...
Donnell, along with Robinson, has recently been cited by both head coach Tom Coughlin and Pope for his standout play in camp. Pope feels the 6'6", 270lb Donnell can be a force in the redzone:
"Here are two guys (Donnell and Robinson) that can jump like gazelles. So if the ball goes up, I’m going to take the…on the fact that one of them has got a chance to get it. A lot of our defensive backs back there are six feet tall, and can’t possibly elevate with these guys. So if they can get the right things done, learn to read the coverage, and get in the right place so that the QB can trust them, then I think they can be very effective in the scoring zone."Of course much of the plan hinges on the health of FB Henry Hynoski (knee). Pascoe has been taking the lion's share of reps at fullback in Hynoski's absence, creating more opportunities for the others. If Hynoski returns in time for the season, the Giants may be facing a tough cut at TE.
Robinson and Donnell are the most recent projects Pope is molding into pros. His student body is a who's who of TE stars: Mark Bavaro, Ben Coates, Jeremy Shockey, Zeke Mowatt, Kevin Boss, Tony McGee and Jake Ballard to name a few. Pope is charged with the same task every summer: make something out a group of green rookies and free agents.
"They’ve been able to go out and find young players who really weren’t drafted and been able to bring them in and train them. It is a position that, because of the salary cap, that only very few persons get a high percentage of that salary cap. It’s a developmental position," Pope said yesterday.
"There are a number of them in the NFL today. It’s important that you do get guys that are the right kind of guys that have the size and at least a high-end amount of talent. They don’t have to be superstars, because you’d be paying them high if they were. But you develop them and make them very good contributors to your football team. Generally these are the guys that are not prima-donnas. Every day is a “prove it” day for them. They kind of have that free agent mentality."
The TE competition is getting crowded because of Pope's ability to develop. Pascoe was brought in five summers ago and under Pope he has become a complete player and a mainstay on the roster. Myers, the newest and most reliable receiving option, is learning the Giant way.
"Coming here, you’d think “he’s played in the NFL,” but he came in here with just the right attitude and gets mad at himself when he doesn’t execute things the way he knows they should be done," Pope said of Myers.
Myers had 74 catches with the Raiders last year, the fourth highest of any TE in football. He understands the Giants will want to get the ball into his hands, but in order for him to stay on the field he'll have to improve his blocking.
"Obviously, last year I didn't block as well as I’d have liked to, but coming here with an organization like the Giants with a coach, with a quarterback, with a winning tradition… it was important for me to come here to, like I said, be an every down tight end; yeah, that’s the tight end’s job, to block, and run routes, so I just try to do that and get better at everything I do each and every day."