Mike Pope doesn’t need to know the name or the jersey number of his tight end. He just needs to know how much time he has to coach him up into a highly productive member of the New York Giants.
Pope, who head coach Tom Coughlin once called “the best tight ends coach in football,” has been coaching the position in New York sine 1983. He’s coached big and small names into some of the league’s best tight ends over the course of the last three decades. This season he has his work cut out for him, because the Giants once again have a new tight end. His name is Brandon Myers, and he’ll be the team’s third different starting tight end in three years.
Myers is a bit different than last year’s starter Martellus Bennett. Bennett, who signed a lucrative long-term deal with the Chicago Bears this summer, is a mulch-dimensional tight end that can block defensive linemen in the running game and run by linebackers in the passing game. Myers, on the other hand, is one dimensional. He doesn’t block very well, but he’s a threat vertically even though he wasn’t used much that way with the Raiders last season.
Myers logged 79 receptions for more than 800 yards last year, and wasn’t used properly in the process. He was used as a short to intermediate weapon, running option and short crossing routes when he could have been running more vertical routes. He’s a linear athlete like most that are 6’4″ and nearly 260 pounds, and is at his best when running deep crossing or post routes. It appears that he’ll be used more on those routes this upcoming season, if Pope has it his way. (h/t Big Blue View)
“He [Myers] is a good receiver. I think with the Raiders he was more of an intermediate receiver, and now our passing game does allow the tight end to get more vertically down the field – flag routes, double seam routes, post routes – that kind of thing. He appears to have the skills to get those balls,” Pope said.
Although Myers is a bit elbow-y and stiff in his movements, he does just enough to get open vertically like he showed in Week 1 against the San Diego Chargers last year on a 16-yard post route.
It was 3rd-and-4 in the fourth quarter, and the Raiders were down 22-6 with the ball on their own 16-yard line, and just over four minutes left. Myers was flexed out three yards from the right offensive tackle, and just inside a Chargers linebacker.
With his right foot forward and his arms loosely hanging to his knees, Myers came off the line of scrimmage at the snap, dipped his head forward, and gave a cold shoulder to the linebacker to avoid a jam. He partially succeeded, keeping his balance and squaring his body to get back into his post route despite being knocked, and continued to work his way downfield.
Now at midfield, he nearly came across another collision, this time with inside linebacker Takeo Spikes. The veteran linebacker slightly slid outside as if he was going to jam Myers, who made a slight reroute of his own to the outside, but then quickly slid back inside after the underneath was threatened by an outlet receiver. That enabled Myers to continue working upfield and break inside, where he leaped and effortlessly caught the football.
This is exactly what the Giants hope to see more of during the upcoming season, as they’ll need him to make similar plays to the ones Bennett made last season. But before Myers goes on to make these plays, he’ll need to learn to block better to get on the field at all because at the moment, he’s a liability.
Last season, there were many times where Myers struggled to block defensive ends one-on-one. Specifically, he struggled at the point of contact, getting jarred back by linemen who attacked his exposed chest, and he didn’t always mirror the opposition well. This was evident against the Cleveland Browns in Week 13 when he attempted to block defensive end Jabaal Sheard and whiffed.
It’s 1st-and-10 in the first quarter of a scoreless game, and the Raiders have the ball on the 50-yard line. The Raiders are in a “21″ personnel set with a fullback nearly five yards behind the quarterback, a running back aligned at the “home” position eight yards in the backfield, and a tight end (Myers) in-line at the formation’s right.
At the snap, Myers gets out of his three-point stance and matches Sheard’s inside steps. He widens his base and raises his arms up to engage with Sheard, but he’s too late. Sheard already raised his arms and uses his hands to pop Myers’ chest before continuing to hand-fight him while attempting to rush wide of the pocket.
This is a problem for Myers. He’s not facing Sheard because his body’s still parallel with the line of scrimmage after being rocked and tossed aside. He’s too late changing direction and matching Sheard’s outside rush. He’s fallen behind Sheard and is not in a position to save his quarterback from getting planted into the ground like a seed. He’s only left to watch Sheard dip his shoulder, dent the pocket and close in on the quarterback, who fortunately gets rid of the ball at the last second to avoid getting sacked.
If Myers doesn’t improve at the point of attack and with his overall technique, he’s going to get his snaps cut despite being a viable vertical threat in the passing game. For a player who’s working on a one-year, prove-it deal, that’s not going help him follow in the footsteps of Bennett’s production and long-term contract. Thankfully, he has Hope on his side.