Will Tye has played in plenty of important games in his two years with the Giants. He’s started 18 games, including last season’s wild-card playoff against the Packers, in which he led the team in receiving yards, and he caught three touchdown passes as a rookie in 2015.
Thursday night, though, may be the most significant game of his career.
On the surface it may be a meaningless fourth preseason game, but for Tye it is one last chance this summer to prove to the Giants that he deserves a place on the team. With cutdowns looming Saturday, Tye knows he has to show up in a big way against the Patriots.
“Any game you go out there is a big game,” Tye said. “You want to perform, you want to excel so they have nothing bad to say about you, nothing that can hurt you. You go out there and you help yourself out.”
It’s been an uphill battle for a spot on the 53-man roster all preseason for the 6-2, 255-pound Tye, the first player from Stony Brook University to make an NFL active roster. The Giants drafted Evan Engram in the first round and signed Rhett Ellison as a free agent, both of them tight ends like Tye.
Ben McAdoo issued a public challenge to Tye early this month. “Sometimes it takes your fears to bring out the best in you,” McAdoo said then when asked about Tye. “What are you going to do? Are you going to step up or are you going to step back? All it is is an opportunity for him to get better.”
How does McAdoo think Tye responded?
“I think Will Tye’s responded well,” McAdoo said, noting a solid day of practice from him on Monday. “That’s all you can do, just keep stacking good days of practice and hopefully it leads to a productive game for him on Thursday. It’s a big game for Tye.”
Tye is not just competing with tight ends for his roster spot. The Giants are in the process of figuring out whether to keep a dedicated fullback, and if they do it likely will eliminate a tight end from the depth chart. That is why Tye has been focusing so much on special teams this preseason. It’s not something he has done much in his career — he was a kick returner at Stony Brook, but in the NFL he should be more of a blocker and tackler — and Tye is adjusting to it.
“I know I can do anything, whatever it is,” he said. “Punt return, any special teams, I know I can do it. I just have to go out there and show it.”
He certainly looks the part. His athleticism should make him a dangerous player on those units. It just hasn’t clicked yet.
“He’s been a little bit of a tease there,” McAdoo said. “We think he has more to offer as a special teamer. Again, we’ll take a look at him on Thursday night.”
Tye said it is not difficult to block out the personal ramifications of this game. He wants to make the Giants’ roster, but he’s also auditioning for 31 other teams if he doesn’t.
“I’m so confident,” he said. “I’ve always heard that, ‘Oh, he can’t do this, he can’t do that.’ I proved them wrong in many games.”
Now, he has one more chance to do just that. Maybe one last chance.
“I know my ability, I know what I can do,” Tye said. “Just go out there and do it. Knowing what you have to do makes it easier, it’s just a matter of executing it. I’m not scared of the stage, nothing is too big. I’m ready to go.”