For the last three seasons, a Giants tight end has finished as one of Eli Manning's top three most-targeted receivers.
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Read the latest Giants news That's not breaking any ground in the modern NFL, but when it is a different player each year, the degree of difficulty is ratcheted up. Mike Pope, one of the most respected position coaches in the NFL, has been a major reason why the revolving door in his meeting room has worked out.
With Pope's help, Brandon Myers is in line to make it four straight years for the tight ends. The first-year Giant may not be on pace for 79 catches like he had in Oakland last year, but his 23 receptions – including three key ones last week in Philadelphia -- are tied with wide receiver Rueben Randle for third on the team.
Pope, earlier this week when he met the media along with the other Giants' assistants, assessed his tight end, whom he has now had half of a season to coach.
"It's taken him some time to learn this offense since he just showed up here," Pope said heading into the Giants' bye week. "I think we're the fifth offense he's had all the way back to college, because when [quarterback] Carson Palmer went out to Oakland, they kind of adapted what he had done in Cincinnati. It's taken him a little bit of time to unlearn offenses he's been in and we have a lot of option route running in our offense, and that's something that just takes a number of reps. He's worked at it and I think he made a couple of significant plays the other day."
The other day was a 15-7 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, the team's second consecutive win after beginning the season 0-6.
Myers notched the longest play of the game for either team with his 27-yard catch from Manning in the first quarter, setting up Josh Brown's second of five field goals. Myers finished with three catches for 42 yards, including a key third-down conversion to chew more time off the clock when Philadelphia made it interesting late in the game. His 23 receptions and 265 yards at the midway point of the season are already his second-best outputs of his five-year career.
But in the Giants' offense, it's not all about how many times Manning targets the tight end. It's about being asked to block.
"Our number one goal is always to protect the quarterback," said Pope, the only Giants coach to have his name inscribed on all four of their Lombardi trophies. "We don't want him to be hit by a free rusher. If we've failed to block the guys that we have accounted for, that's one set of encyclopedias. We do a little bit more than they did at Oakland with keeping him in the protection, and that has been one of the things. The other thing is that our wide receivers have kind of been our nuts and bolts and that's where a good part of our passing game and the reads begin out there. His contributions have been significant, though. He's really made some really good progress as a run blocker. They didn't ask him to do a great deal of that at Oakland."