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Who's the (next) Boss?

New York Giants' Christian Hopkins, left, and Jake

New York Giants' Christian Hopkins, left, and Jake Ballard leave the field after practice at the team's NFL football practice facility. (July 30, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

One of the best parts of my job is reminding people of their inadequacies.

No, of course I’m kidding. I don’t enjoy that, at least not always. But there are many times when we reporters have to ask questions of unproven players who are thrust into a role they may or may not be ready for. As I did that this week with tight end Jake Ballard, I had some flashbacks to when I had to do it with another tight end in his second season with the team. That kid was Kevin Boss.

My first year on the beat was the year after the Giants won the Super Bowl. It was also the year that the Giants traded Jeremy Shockey and inserted Boss into the starting lineup. There were a lot of questions about Boss’ blocking ability, and it was a big storyline at the time.

Now, three years later, we’re writing the “How will they replace Boss?” stories. Maybe in a few years I’ll be writing the “Can the Giants survive without Jake Ballard?” story.

For now, though, I’m writing the “Can Jake Ballard and the group of tight ends the Giants have possibly fill the void left by Boss.”

“We have a good group of tight ends with me and Bear (Pascoe) and Travis (Beckum) and some of these other guys,” Ballard said. “We’ll see what they can do. But we have confidence we can get the job done. I’m confident I can get the job done blocking and help out in the passing game.”

Ballard said he knows if he makes this team it will be as a point-of-attack blocker who can sometimes go out for a pass. Beckum, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. He’s more a receiver than a blocker, as tight ends coach Mike Pope pointed out.

“He’s disadvantaged because he weighs about 235 pounds and all of the guys he’s going to block at that position (are heavier),” Pope said. “His effort is going to be there, he’s going to try, but the laws of science come into play. The bigger mass generally over a three-hour game is going to win, so over a game he would wear down. It isn’t our plan to use him there like we would a regular tight end. We will have to involve him there because we can’t put a flag up every time he runs into the game that it’s going to be a pass.”

Then there’s Daniel Coats, who came in after Ben Patrick retired. He’s didn’t know Boss at all, so he’s one of the few guys who can be genuinely happy to see the guy leave for Oakland.

“It was a pleasant thing,” Coats said of learning that Boss had left. “Instead of coming in to back somebody up you can think ‘Hey there’s a starting position here that you can actually fight for.’ That’s kind of nice.

“It’s nice where we all know we have a chance and we all know if we come out here and compete and do things right we can be the guy,” Coats said of the group of tight ends. “It’s exciting that way. Some people may say it or not, but there are some places where you go in and you’re fighting for number two. It’s a rare opportunity where you can go in and be the guy.”

One of them may wind up the guy. Pope said he isn’t sure if any of his current guys can replace Boss.

“I don’t know the answer to that yet,” he said. “We need to get them in the games. I think it’s going to take us a couple of games before we can answer that question.”
 

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