The Giants have a big vanacy at tight end thanks to the Patriots claiming Jake Ballard off waivers in the off season. They’re also pretty shallow at the wide receiver position, where the departure of Mario Manningham leaves a battle for the third receiver job.
Two guys with opportunities for playing time this season are Martellus Bennett at tight end and Ramses Barden at wide receiver. However, in order to hold off the competition, both players must prove that the best of their football hasn’t been played yet.
Since being drafted in the second round of the 2008 draft by the Dallas Cowboys, Bennett has shown that he’s more than capable of being a reserve tight end, but he’s unproven as a full time player thanks to being stuck behind star tight end Jason Witten. Bennett hasn’t caught a touchdown pass since his rookie season, and his career high for catches is just 33, set in 2010.
Now with the Giants, Bennett has a chance to shine, but will his eccentric personality get in the way? Bennett has already made it clear that he’s through with his former team.
“I just want to kick those guys’ asses,” Bennett said shortly after arriving at camp, when he was asked about playing the Cowboys. “That is what it is all about. I mean we are cool but we ain’t that cool, know what I am saying? I kind of got some ill feelings towards them overall. It is a game, I kind of hate everybody, honestly, in the NFL.”
So far in Giants camp, Bennett isn’t pleased with the way he’s performed. That’s probably good news for Giants fans, though, because Bennett’s aspirations for greatness might transform him into the producer he never was in Dallas. Despite being hard on himself for the way he’s performed, Bennett is making an effort to get on the same page as quarterback Eli Manning.
“It’s not like sometimes, with the wife, you never know what she wants,” Bennett said. “You’ll be like, ‘Well, do you want steak?’ And she’ll be like, ‘No, I don’t want steak.’ Eli knows if he wants chicken or steak. I’ll come back (and say), ‘Did you like that?’ ‘No, I didn’t like that.’ So the next time I do it, I just do it the way he likes it.”
I think it was a great move by the Giants to bring in Bennett, who still has upside at age 25. Plus, he seems to have a chip on his shoulder and a desire to prove his critics wrong. The other options are tight end are the rookie Adrien Robinson, the unspectacular Bear Pascoe and Travis Beckum, who is still recovering from his ACL tear in the Super Bowl. I really live Bennett’s chances of making an impact this season.
Barden’s similar to Bennett in that he’s been stuck behind a bunch of talented players, but he’s different in that he’s been with the Giants for the past three years. Drafted out of FCS school Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo in 2009, Barden was considered a project right off the bat. Still, the Giants must have expected him to have more than 15 receptions in his first three seasons.
With the Giants having chosen Jerrel Jernigan and Rueben Randle in the past two drafts, this season may be Barden’s last chance for playing time with the Giants.
“It’s time,” Tom Coughlin said. “It was time last year. It’s time. The guy is going to make a mark in the league. He’s smart. He’s been around long enough. He’s been in the heat of it. You know he’s made plays. He just needs to make them more consistently.”
It’s true that Barden has had to fight through injuries, but so have the other wide receivers on the roster. Domenik Hixon tore his ACL two years in a row and is back to fighting for a job again. Victor Cruz might have broken out a year sooner had he not been shut down in 2010 with a hamstring injury. There’s no excuses left for Barden, who is as physically gifted as they come.
Also: The Giants are trying out some new guys at punt returner after a disastrous punt returning season in 2011. Jernigan is the favorite to win the job, with rookies Jayron Hosley and Randle waiting in the wings.
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