|National Football League|
Former Cowboy Bennett trying to fill Giants TE job
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) When the New York Giants reported to training camp, the biggest question mark was at tight end.
The Giants (No. 3 in the AP Pro32) saw Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum tear anterior cruciate ligaments in the Super Bowl win over the Patriots, and they are taking a one-year flier on former Dallas Cowboys backup Martellus Bennett.
There is no question Bennett has all the tools and that he was groomed for four years under one of the NFL's best tight ends, Jason Witten.
The question is: Can he do the job? His career totals of 81 catches and four touchdowns aren't impressive. More troubling are the rumors that he didn't always play hard and that's why New York is taking a wait and see approach.
For Bennett, this is his chance to come out from under Witten's shadow.
"It's is like anything else in my life," Bennett said Saturday at training camp at the University at Albany. "I just try to give it everything I have and do my best. I don't think anyone's expectations of me are any higher than the ones I have for myself. I am a self-driven guy and I give it everything I got."
Bennett will get the most competition for the starting job from veteran Bear Pascoe who is starting his fourth season with New York.
Pascoe has been used primarily as a blocker but he believes he can take over the pass-catching role that Ballard and Beckum occupied last season.
There is no doubt that Bennett can clearly block and catch the ball. He still needs to become more familiar with the offense.
Pascoe is light years ahead of him in that area, and Bennett admits his is always trying to pick his brain or going to quarterback Eli Manning or tight ends coach Mike Pope for insight. He also is drawing on what he learned what Witten, a teammate who he believes will someday be in Hall of Fame.
The problem for Bennett was he also wanted a bigger role.
"It was a situation where I wanted to get the ball more," Bennett said. "You want to be a bigger part off of the offense, and feel like you are more a part of the team, not that guy who just plays. It's pretty tough, but I think it helped me a lot. There are a lot of things I do now that I got from Witten, be it preparation or things I have seen him do. Now it's part of my approach to the game."
Besides learning from Witten, Bennett has gotten into a habit of watching videotape of tight ends. He looks at the tapes of Manning working with Ballard, who was waived injured and claimed by New England, and earlier tapes of the two-time Super Bowl MVP throwing to former Giants Jeremy Shockey.
"I watch every tight end in the NFL. I have everybody's tapes," Bennett said. "I try to pick up pointers and things they did to get open. Tony Gonzalez is one of my favorites. Everybody is different sizes though. I stick to the bigger receivers like the Brandon Marshalls, you know, the big guys. I can't watch Steve Smith. I can't do what he does. Of the tight ends one of my favorites is to watch Kellen Winslow, as far as blocking. I try to take something from everyone's game and add it to my own."
Giants coach Tom Coughlin is impressed with Bennett's raw talent.
"Martellus is young and talented but he's got to learn our system," the 65-year-old coach said. "He made some outstanding plays early on and we think he's going to be a good blocker. Every day is an important day for his development and the rest of them, too. There's a lot of young guys."
Pascoe, who has been playing with the first team since camp opened last week, has no intention of giving Bennett the starting job. He just keeps his mouth shut and makes plays.
"That's what I am supposed to do. That's my job," said Pascoe, who started 11 of 16 regular-season games last season, making 12 catches for 136 yards and no touchdowns. "I don't need to talk or say anything. I just need to show up and work hard and get my work done."
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Updated August 4, 2012