The impact of the tight end position has been an ongoing storyline this season in the NFL. Four are currently on pace to finish in the top 20 in receiving yards; there was only one in 2010 (Dallas' Jason Witten). In terms of touchdowns, there are three in the top 10 this season.
With back-to-back weeks against Jimmy Graham and Jermichael Finley, Big Blue has faced or will face a majority of the most productive tight ends the league has to offer. Here is a list of the top tight ends, by touchdowns, with those on the Giants' slate appearing in bold:
1 Rob Gronkowski, NE, 11 TD
2 Jimmy Graham, NO, 8 TD
3 Tony Gonzalez, ATL, 7 TD
4 Scott Chandler, BUF, 6 TD
5 Vernon Davis, SF, 5 TD
5 Jermichael Finley, GB, 5 TD
5 Jermaine Gresham, CIN, 5 TD
5 Aaron Hernandez, NE, 5 TD
5 Tony Scheffler, DET, 5 TD
5 Jason Witten, DAL, 5 TD
Graham, the most recent opponent, scored twice against the Giants on Monday night. He was able to exploit their zone coverage, catching five passes for 84 yards.
"That's what it was," Deon Grant said. "When we played Graham in man-to-man, we killed him. He didn't get a pass on us. It's when we did play the zone and we didn't play the zone correctly that he found it. They exploited when we weren't playing correctly and they capitalized off that."
Finley, Aaron Rodgers' second-most targeted receiver, presents similar problems this Sunday against the Giants. Coming off a season-ending knee injury early in Green Bay's Super Bowl run, the 6-foot-5, 247-pound tight end has 36 catches for 513 yards and five touchdowns. Despite being an inch shorter and 10 pounds lighter than Graham, Finley plays the position more traditionally.
Both, however, are still dangerous hybrids.
"I feel like (Jermichael) is a little bit of a better blocker, but both are very good receivers when it comes down to it," linebacker Greg Jones said. "I think that's how you kind of look at it because they're not really used that much in the run game a whole lot. But when they are out there, you know they are very, I would say, they threaten us as pass receivers. That's the one thing you kind of see with both of those guys."
The plan, like always, will be to mix up looks to limit Rodgers' arsenal of weapons.
"Jermichael is another talented tight end," Prince Amukamara said. "He can split out and play the wide receiver. He's a great blocker. So we have our work cut out for us. I think we match up great with these guys man-to-man. They have great athletes and so do we."
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