Larry Donnell's career day shows Giants have strength at Tight End

Posted Sep 29, 2014

TE Larry Donnel had three touchdown catches in the Giants' win in Washington

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Throughout the offseason, as the Giants signed or drafted various offensive linemen, defensive backs and wide receivers, numerous people outside the organization wondered when they would address the tight end position.

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The Giants’ consistent and unwavering response was, “we have good tight ends on the roster.” To which all of those skeptics replied, “seriously?”


Yes, seriously. The position that seemingly had more questions than any other has become a team strength four games into the season. Eli Manning has thrown nine touchdown passes this season. Seven of them have been to tight ends.

Last night, Larry Donnell scored the Giants’ first three touchdowns in their 45-14 dismantling of the Washington Redskins in FedEx Field. He is the first Giants tight end with three touchdown receptions in a game since Joe Walton 52 years ago. Daniel Fells scored the other touchdown, his third in as many games.

Donnell leads the team in receptions (25) and touchdown catches (four). This is the same Larry Donnell who a) was out of football in 2011, because no NFL team was interested enough to sign the one-time quarterback from Grambling State; b) spent the 2012 season on the Giants’ practice squad; and c) entered this season with three career receptions, all on Dec. 15, 2013 vs Denver. Now he’s one of the most important and productive players on a rapidly improving offense that has scored eight touchdowns in two games.


Victor Cruz perhaps best summarized the Giants’ feelings about Donnell on a conference call today when he was asked if there was a specific moment when the offense began clicking.

“Not a specific moment,” Cruz said. “I think it just was when Larry Donnell started getting going. I think when Larry Donnell started to come and catch the ball and make some plays for us, I think that is when things kind of shifted and things went in our way a little bit. It was definitely something that we needed to happen, someone to step up and make some big plays, and Larry Donnell has done that for us.”

“We’ve always had (this kind of production) in the back of our minds because of his athleticism,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “Grooming him into being the all-purpose tight end, there’s a lot of responsibilities there. There’s a lot to have to accomplish, the blocking part of it, the knowledge of the game, the routes and how to run them from that inside position against defenders, whether they be big, strong linebacker types, safety types, whatever it might be. There’s a young, inexperienced player that’s eager to learn and has athleticism, has speed, has outstanding hands, so we’ve always had a high level of expectation for this player and how he can develop. He’s gotten started along those lines. There’s a long way to go, but it doesn’t change what we think this player can be.”

Manning believes Donnell has talent, but concedes the second-year pro has “probably” exceeded his expectations.


“He just hasn’t had a whole lot of game action, but he did well,” Manning said. “I was hoping he would be able to play to this level. I was excited about the possibilities for him this year, but he’s played really well. We do a good job, we move him around and put him in different spots and he creates some mismatches. We had a corner on him one time and we threw the fade, we had a linebacker on him another time and he couldn’t get open on the linebacker but he beats the corner. I don’t think it’s supposed to work that way, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Donnell is 6-6 and 265 pounds, athletic and quick. The Giants had as many as six tight ends in training camp, but Donnell emerged as the clear-cut No. 1. He scored the Giants’ first touchdown of the season on a one-yard pass from Manning in Detroit and led the Giants in receiving in each of the first three games. That was all a prelude to last night’s three-score outing.

“It’s a dream come true,” Donnell said. “Just sitting here thinking about it in this moment right now, it’s still a dream come true. I’m just still working hard to focus on getting better and better every day.

“I’m just trying to stay the course, work hard every day to help the team continue getting better so I can continue to contribute like that.”

Cruz insists he saw the potential for Donnell to deliver this kind of production last year.

“I know exactly what type of athlete he is,” Cruz said. “I see him in practice each and every day. I see the type of plays that he makes, and I know it is just a matter of him getting his opportunity and him making the best of it. I knew once he got it this year, with the style of offense that we have, it definitely makes well for an athletic tight end to do some positive things. I think he filled that void for us.”

As he stood at his locker after the game, Donnell said he already had 161 messages on Facebook, which is more than even Walton had in 1962. He was asked who he heard from most.

“My mom, my dad, my wife, my (four-year-old) daughter,” he said. “That’s who I’m looking forward to calling right now. They’ve been there since the beginning and continue to be there through all of it, so I’ll give them a holler first.”

No one expected this when the season began just 18 days ago. Not even Donnell, who admits he’s not only exceeded Manning’s expectations, but his own.

“You set your goals high,” he said. “I didn’t really expect it to come so quick, but it has and I just try to take advantage of all of the opportunities that I’ve had. It’s going well, but like I said, I’m going to continue to work hard.”

Both he and the Giants figure to be the beneficiaries from that.