Thoughts on the Signings of Brandon Myers and Dan Connor

 

While Martellus Bennett was a fan favorite and certianly had the best season of his career as a receiver in 2012, his loss is being overstated a bit. Coming from Dallas with the tag of "unpolished receiver but elite run blocker," Bennett failed to meet expectations as one of the premier run-blocking tight ends in the league. He showed flashes at times, but his lackadasical approach and inability to produce consistently kept him from being an elite blocker at his position last season. This isn't to say he was a bad blocker because he was far from it. So while the Giants will certainly be downgrading in that area in 2013, Bennett's blocking too left something to be desired at times. 

Yes, Bennet did put up the best statistical season of his career but his lack of natural ball skills, route running and general playmaking never allowed him to become fully immersed into the passing attack (if you frequent this site you know that we have a big issue with the lack of TE use in the Giants' offense in 2012) as a threat, especially down the field. 

In an interview with Sirius XM NFL Radio, Jerry Reese hinted at the team's belief that this wont be the case with Myers being one of the more polished receivers at his position:

"Number one he knows how to play. He’s a professional football player. In the past, (tight ends coach) Mike Pope, we gave him some young kids. He had Kevin Boss, and he had Jake Ballard, and Martellus (Bennett) hadn’t played a lot; he played behind the Hall of Fame tight end in Dallas, so he really hadn’t played a lot. This guy has played quite a bit, caught 79 balls last year at Oakland, so there’s not a lot of training; he’s quarterback friendly. He catches 80 balls and people really don’t know that much about him. We think he’ll be a great piece to our offense and I think Eli will have a relationship with him really quickly.''

Last point on Myers as a receiver—let's remember the smorgasbord of quarterbacks he has played with in his career: JaMarcus Russell, Charlie Frye, Bruce Gradkowski, Jason Cambpell, Kyle Boller, Terrelle Pryor and Carson Palmer. Needless to say, Myers is looking forward to the opportunity to play with a quarterback of Eli's caliber. 

One area where Myers struggles, as we all know by now, is run blocking. Although he doesn't stack up to Bennett (Myers is listed at 6'4'' 240 pounds) physically, there is no reason to believe he can't become a servicable run blocker with a bit of coaching from Pope. From a look at the All-22 it is clear that Myers struggles not with his drive blocking ability (he showed on a few occasisons that when he does win at the point of attack, he can drive the defender back) but rather his technique. On nearly every play watched, Myers starts off with at least one and sometimes two false steps before engaging the defender and thus losing the battle at the point of attack far too often. While this is a big "no-no" for any blocker, the false steps hurt Myers even more. Someone as undersized as he is must be as technicially sound a blocker as they can be to negate whatever size deficit they may face on a given play. Anything less and you can expect to lose the individual battle every time.  

Last season Oakland tended to run the ball away from Myers' side (to me this is like putting gum over a leak or fixing a slice in golf by aligning 45 degrees to the left) or had him standing up in the slot as a receiver, the latter of the two being something that the Giants may choose to utilize next season. Plenty of teams are able to mask less than stellar blocking TEs in this manner (Jimmy Graham in NO comes to mind) so perhaps the Giants will line Myers up in a variety of looks outside of the tackle box to maximize his recieving ability and mask his blocking deficencies in the early going. For this to work however, the Giants need several things to happen.

First and most pressing is a better output from the OL in the run game in 2013. I think everyone, members of the organization and fans alike, can agree on this. Another key will be the continued developemnt of Adrien Robinson (who I believe will be an impact player in the league as an all-around TE as soon as this season) particularly as a blocker. The physically impressive tight end, who most of us known from whatever offerings YouTube may have on him, is someone that the Giants could be counting on next season. Reese thinks he is up for the challenge:

So we’re expecting him to make a jump this season and get in and get going and give us some contributions as our big blocking tight end. And he can catch the ball really nice. So we expect to bring him along, and hopefully he’ll contribute for us."

-My thoughts on Connor will be brief and that is not without reason. While we have not seen All-22 tape on him since the signing, his reputation is that of someone who can get downhill quickly and decisively allowing him to serve as a great run stuffer and a 4-3 MLB. How he handles the tranisition as the "QB" of the defense, something Chase Blackburn seemingly excelled with, remains to be seen.

If things are going well for the Giants defense in 2013, it's likely we won't see much of Connor. One would imagine that most obvious passing situations will feature a third safety (the three safety look essentially served as a base defense for the Giants in 2011-12 and was a staple of their late season run) spelling the MLB. If Connor and the defense can do their job of stuffing the run and force the oppositions hand with 2nd/3rd and long situations then the Giants will be able to keep him fresh while alternating from a traditional 4-3 look and the Giants' three-safety look of recent years. So if we're seeing a lot of 4-3 or even that 4-4 look that Fewell desperately went with @ Washington late last season (a decision that was questioned by many) then odds are the Giants run defense picked up where they left off in 2012. But what if we see more of the three-safety look? Then Connor and the run defense have done their job.

 

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