At 6-foot-5, Rhett Ellison is a good height for a tight end.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only position he is being asked to play.
In the Giants’ offense, Ellison is not only lining up next to tackles to block defenders but also in the backfield as a fullback. That’s where he was on the first play of training camp last week, and that’s where he spent time on Tuesday when the Giants practiced in shoulder pads for the first time in camp.
It’s a rare position in which Ellison’s height is a disadvantage.
“We were just talking about that today, I was talking with Matt LaCosse about it,” Ellison said of a conversation with his fellow tight end, one who is listed at 6-foot-6. “It definitely helps being shorter when you’re doing those lead blocks. Football is a game of leverage. Low man is going to win. But if you can do the right technique, you can get your leverage.”
Getting down and dirty is nothing new for Ellison. He played fullback exclusively in his senior year at USC and spent time in the backfield with the Vikings. The Giants signed him in the offseason as the main addition to their running game. While they are hoping to see development and improvement from their running backs and offensive linemen, the names at those key positions are pretty much the same. Ellison is expected to be the difference-maker.
“They want versatile guys, and I don’t think it’s just in the tight end room,” Ellison said. “They want guys that can move around all over the place just so you’re not stuck with a vanilla offense. You can change it up. Adding guys that can be versatile is going to help you with that.”
Ellison is nothing if not versatile. But blocking in-line and from the backfield are two different skills.
“It’s a different technique, different reads,” he said. “You have to see how the shells fall in. In line, it’s a smaller triangle. At fullback, you need to see when safeties are coming down, corner’s outside, it’s all going to change the flow. So, you have to be able to know if your read is inside-out or outside-in. It’s just a little different. Mostly the technique is different.”
Ellison was brought in to block. First-round pick Evan Engram was brought in to catch passes. But they’ll each have to do a little bit of what the other specializes in, too, and so far Ellison has been impressed by the rookie’s blocking.
“For Evan, he doesn’t seem like he needs a lot of advice,” Ellison said. “He came in, he’s been working hard since the day he got here, and he’s open to anything. He’s willing to block, willing to do it from the back field, in-line, willing to line up on the outside. So, he’s got the right mindset, and all I would tell him is keep that up because it’s awesome to see that.”