The Giants' tight end room has gone through a significant transformation since the end of last season.
Of the six tight ends currently on the roster, not one finished the 2021 season with the team. Daniel Bellinger was selected in this year's draft, while Ricky Seals-Jones, Jordan Akins and Chris Myarick were signed during free agency. Myarick is the only one who spent any time with the Giants last year, playing in eight games before being waived. Undrafted rookie free agents Austin Allen and Andre Miller round out the group.
Although he has only been a part of the NFL for a little over two months, Bellinger has already recognized some of the differences between college and the professional level.
"This level is a lot more particular on the small details, whether it's one-foot step, one kind of leverage on a route, compared to college," the rookie said on the Giants Huddle podcast. "College wasn't as particular on the small details because sometimes you're just straight up better than the guy across from you. But at this level, everybody is good. More often than not, the guy across from you is going to be better. So, in order to beat him, you have to win with small details and the small technical things in that kind of aspect."
The Giants took Bellinger in the fourth-round (No. 112 overall) of this year's draft after a four-year career at San Diego State. The Las Vegas native saw his usage in the passing game increase each season with the Aztecs. After catching 15 passes in 2019, Bellinger reeled in 21 receptions during his junior season before finishing with a career-high 31 receptions for 357 yards last year.
Despite being underutilized in San Diego State's run-first offense, Bellinger displayed very strong hands when the ball was thrown to him. He did not drop any passes in 2021, and registered a drop rate of just 4.2 percent during his entire collegiate career. Both of those marks were the best among tight ends in the 2022 NFL Draft.
"I'm all over, a hybrid," Bellinger exclaimed. "Of course, you know the tight ends run block, pass block. But definitely one that's going to get his hand in the dirt, and another that's going to get open and catch some balls. One that does kind of both … I want to show that I do have a lot of potential, not just in the run game, but in the pass game as well."
One player the rookie will look to for guidance is sixth-year pro Seals-Jones, the most experienced veteran in the tight end room.
The Giants represent Seals-Jones' fifth team. Playing in 13 games (six starts) for Washington last year, he caught 30 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns. One of those scores came against the Giants in Week 2, when the veteran jumped and made an incredible catch in the back of the end zone to produce a late lead.
"I'm not a flashy person. I just do my job, honestly," stated Seals-Jones. "I don't try to do too much, do too less. I just do my 1/11th and just kind of make sure we stay above the green and keep the chains moving.'
The other veteran newcomer to the TE room is Akins. During his four years in Houston, he caught 114 passes for 1,260 yards and three touchdowns across 58 games (23 starts).
Similar to Bellinger and Seals-Jones, Akins is ready to do whatever it takes to help the Giants win games.
"I bring a lot of talent through the passing game, the running game, get some blocks. Special teams as well," Akins said. "My specialty really is making plays in the open field, breaking tackles and making big-time catches, and hopefully score a lot of touchdowns this year. You can expect an athlete coming to play ball and help this team win some games."
Akins does have some familiarity within the room – position coach Andy Bischoff served in the same role for the Texans last year, when Akins had 24 receptions for 214 yards.
The group is obviously still relatively new to each other. But Akins says that through Bischoff's leadership, all of the tight ends are bonding and ready to bring out the best in one another once training camp, and the battle for the starting tight end spot, kicks off in a few weeks.
"For the most part, Coach Andy Bischoff, he does a great job. We just let him lead for now," Akins said. "It gets goofy in there sometimes, silly, it gets quiet and it gets real sometimes. It's a great group of guys. We're looking to compete and play it out, and we'll see who comes out on top at the end of the day."
The Giants' new offense will combine aspects of the systems run by both the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs from recent years. Brian Daboll played a big part in the development of Bills TE Dawson Knox, who caught 49 passes and nine touchdowns last year. Meanwhile, Mike Kafka spent the last five seasons in Kansas City working with Travis Kelce, one of the greatest to ever play the position.
Seeing the success other tight ends have had playing under Daboll and Kafka has the Giants' tight ends very excited to hit the field.
"I kind of followed these guys in previous years when I was in Houston. I loved the way they used their tight ends," said Akins. "Down the field, not just in the flat. They put them in successful places and they give them a lot of opportunities to make plays. That's what I'm here for, just the opportunity to make plays. I'm looking forward to it and I can't wait to suit up."
"Knox went off with Buffalo. Obviously, Coach Kafka was in KC with Travis," added Seals-Jones. "They've been making plays in those offenses, so why not here?"
The new playbook is certainly not an easy one to master quickly. Seals-Jones described it as "hefty" while Akins categorized it as "kind of difficult" at first. For Bellinger, it's the only NFL offense he's ever had to digest.
Despite the challenges, the rookie is confident the offense is going to be very happy with the end result once they master the system.
"It's definitely eye-opening," Bellinger proclaimed. "Coming in, a lot of the concepts are similar, but the terminology and how everything works together is definitely different. It's tough learning it, but once we put it all together, I feel like it's going to be really good."
The tight ends are bonding as they face a training camp competition to see not only who will start, but also which players will make the 53-man roster at the end of the summer.
"We want to know the information so we can play fast. The more comfortable we are, the faster we can play and the more free we can play," Akins said. "We compete. We get together and we learn. We break it down in the ways that we learn - we have some visual learners and we have some people who just process differently. We help each other out."
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Take a look at rare photos of New York Giants training camps through the years.