Larry Donnell‘s struggles beg the question: why didn’t the New York Giants pull the trigger on the Martellus Bennett trade?
When the Chicago Bears were shopping starting tight end Martellus Bennett this offseason, his former team, the New York Giants, were rumored to be in play for his services.
Ultimately, though, New York never pulled the trigger on the deal. Bennett, along with a 2016 sixth-round pick, was traded to the New England Patriots in exchange for a 2016 fourth-round selection.
As a Patriot, Bennett has integrated beautifully into Josh McDaniel’s offense. Through his first seven games with the team, he has tallied 27 catches for 367 yards and four touchdowns. In addition to helping pave the way sixth-best rushing attack in the league, Bennett’s 52.43 receiving yards per game ranks seventh among tight ends this season.
New York’s tight end corps could have used Bennett’s services:
As Bennett excels in New England, the Giants tight end group has endured its share of struggles this season.
Starter Larry Donnell has consistently underwhelmed in all facets of his game. His 92 receiving yards rank sixth on the team, behind his backup Will Tye, as well as running backs Bobby Rainey and Paul Perkins.
Donnell’s ball security issues continue to come back to haunt him as well. He lost his first fumble of the season against the Los Angeles Rams, an ominous sign for those who recall 2014 campaign where he lost four during his first full season as a starter. The fourth-year veteran’s blocking has also been suspect throughout the season, often failing to hold his assignment for very long and occasionally outright whiffing entirely on defenders.
Tye, along with rookie Jerrell Adams, have been good in spots but have gotten surprisingly limited opportunities. Coming off a breakout campaign in Donnell’s absence last season, Tye has outpaced his teammate in every receiving statistical category except for touchdowns, despite being second on the depth chart. Meanwhile, Adams has shown flashes of potential, catching all three passes thrown his way for 32 yards, yet has only seen 41 offensive snaps in 2016.
Though head coach Ben McAdoo will reportedly reevaluate the use of his tight end personnel, it will not change what could have been. The Giants had the opportunity to get a game changer at the position for pennies on the dollar and did not make the move.
McAdoo says he is going to roll Jerell Adams and Will Tye in a bit more with Larry Donnell to get some competition going.
— Paul Schwartz (@NYPost_Schwartz) October 24, 2016
Where Bennett could have helped:
The Giants do not have a Rob Gronkowski, that much is abundantly clear. Without having to split time with the best tight end in the NFL (and possibly of all time) Bennett would undoubtedly be New York’s number one man.
Bennett has excelled nearly everywhere he has landed when given the opportunity to start. In 2014, his last full season as a starter, he ranked tenth in the league with 90 receptions to go along with 916 yards and six touchdowns. This season with a limited Gronkowski through the first four weeks, Bennett caught 15 passes for 247 yards and one touchdown.
Though Gronk’s return has limited Bennett’s usage, he is still a major factor in New England’s aerial attack, even when he’s not catching passes. He brought in just one pass for five yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but his presence in the secondary opened holes in the coverage for his teammates. Gronkowski had a monster game opposite his fellow tight end, picking up 93 yards and a touchdown on four catches. Slot receiver Julian Edelman also benefited from the attention the former Pro Bowler drew, hauling in nine catches for 60 yards.
Imagine what Bennett could have done for the Giants, not just as a pass catcher, but additionally as an extra weapon in New York’s passing game defenses would be forced to account for. Adding his abilities to the already talented trio of Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, and Sterling Shepard would account for many matchup nightmares across the NFL.
An upgraded blocker on the edge would also have improved the Giants currently poor rushing attack. When the first hole up the middle is not there, New York’s running backs have struggled to create anything for themselves. Having a strong blocker like Bennett would have given runners the option to bounce runs to the outside when holes up the middle got clogged up.
This is a deal that Giants’ general manager Jerry Reese would have likely want a do-over on. New York spent huge money on improving their defense, setting up what many thought would be a do or die year for Big Blue. However, aside from the addition of Shepard in the Draft, Reese largely ignored the offense. Although the unit was coming off an eighth best ranking from the year before, there were still moves that could have been made. Adding Bennett would have addressed some of the blocking issues while adding a capable weapon in the passing game.
While a fourth round pick is no small piece to part with, the return would have been well worth the price.