One of my favorite things about having a football blog and an audience is when another site links to me and a completely new audience comments on what I have written. I don’t write stuff with that purpose in mind, but when you admit you’re a fan of another team and you’re being critical of one of that team’s division rivals, their fans often go apeshit if you write something negative about their team.
Around this time last year, I created an extremely simple Excel table. One side had the Redskins’ 1′s on offense. The other side had the Eagles’ 2′s. I even said that I thought the Skins’ 1′s were better. That was the entire post. It took me 5 minutes to do. Anyway, not appreciating that I even dared to make that comparison at all, a large message board by the name of ExtremeSkins.com picked it up and their community proceeded to call me everything you can possibly imagine over the next few days.
This weekend, something similar happened. I wrote a short, unflattering post about Martellus Bennett last week, and gave my opinion that it would not be surprising to me if the Giants cut him. This time, a large Giants message board by the name of Big Blue Interactive picked it up, and their fans unloaded. Some of my favorites:
“What is that writer on crack” – BillyBoy8384
“Any site with the tagline “we be journalizin son” should not be taken seriously.” – nyjuggernaut
“Yes, the writer is a well known crackhead…” – Matt G
“Stirring up controversy is a common tactic for trying to generate interest in a story or a career. But this is really ridiculous.” – AcidTest
“I’d like the 30 seconds of my life back for having to read that crap” – Larry in Pencilvania
“What a fucking idiot. Does this guy not know that Bennett pulled his hamstring and is running at half speed?” – Eric from BBI
“one bad mini-camp practice? absolutely cut his ass!” – Giants11
“and once again a bbier thinks a blogger is a journalist. this guy is just another moronic fan, just like you” – snablats
“Bennett isn’t getting cut. Sorry, but with all due respect to the writer of that post, I think he’s jumping to conclusions. For starters, the off-season was way shorter this year so new guys coming in had less time to work with the coaches on the play book. Second, if you’re in your contract year and can’t show your stuff due to an injury, well, yeah, you’re going to be a little frustrated.
Third, what the blogger fails to take into consideration in trying to “decipher” Bennett’s body language is that the guy was trying to work his way back from a hamstring. He could have sat out the entire spring with an eye toward getting healthy for camp, but gave it a go. And in giving it a go, he took things slow so as to not make the injury worse. How is that poor body language?
And here’s something that the blogger didn’t mention. Every day the media had access, I saw Bennett at his locker, his head in the play book. If that’s a sign of someone who doesn’t give a crap, then I’d like to see what someone who does give a crap looks like.
I respect others’ opinions, but the idea of the team cutting Bennett just to pick up more draft picks next year is ludicrous. And as for him reportedly being a headache, trust me when I say that team has put up with bigger headaches in recent years and have done so with a smile so long as said headaches have produced.
I am not sure right that he’s the long term answer, but I am interested to see what he brings to the table once camp starts.” (Giants beat writer) Pat (Traina) from Inside Football
“I like turtles” – KsToNe498
Personally, I can see why they crapped all over my Bennett post. Mainly because… well… it was crap. Not the assertion that Bennett very well could be cut, mind you – I still believe that’s quite possible, and I’ll get into that in a minute. I’m more disappointed in how terribly the post is written. For one, I had to add an update because my projection on what potential compensatory pick Bennett would qualify for was off by a round, per Blogging the bEast’s compensatory pick expert, “ct17.” I consider myself as somewhat of a “Clyde Drexler” when it comes to compensatory picks. I have enough knowledge of them to be dangerous, but I’m not on the level of the Michael Jordans and Magic Johnsons of the world, like my boy ct17 and guys like Sam Lynch over at IgglesBlitz. I should have asked a Jordan to review that part to make sure I had it right, but didn’t. Eff. Bad job by me.
Also, I made a common fatal mistake of assuming the readers would already know my feelings on Bennett as a player (I don’t think very highly of him, as again, I’ll get to in a minute), which is the most crucial part of why I think he’s vulnerable… not just because he looked like he didn’t give a crap at practice.
Anyway, I call a re-do. I didn’t completely lay out my entire reasoning for thinking Bennett could be cut. I’ll do so now.
I’ve been following Martellus Bennett’s career closely for 4 years. He has been an enormous disappointment. And yet, here’s what I wrote about Bennett when he was visiting with the team, before he even signed.
What I really want to get to is Martellus Bennett. I’ve been poking fun at Marty B for years now, but I actually REALLY like the fit for him with the Giants, and to be perfectly honest, I hadn’t thought of it. The Giants LOVE using an extra offensive tackle for max protect, and while Bennett’s receiving numbers are rather comical, I’ll give credit where it’s due… He can block. Bennett is not a #1 TE that is going to catch 40+ balls over the course of the season. Repeat… Bennett is not a #1 TE. But I think he’d be great as a role player with the Giants, specifically as an extra blocker in the jumbo package, assuming he wasn’t serious about the comments he made about wanting to be the #1 guy.
In regard to the “Bennett is not a #1 TE” statement above, an argument I’ve seen a lot of from Giants fans is that Bennett had a case of the sads because he had to play behind Jason Witten for for 4 years, and knew that no matter what he did, he’d never be the #1 guy. That’s a ridiculously over-apologetic assertion. The great Rafael Vela of Cowboys Nation summed that relationship up like so:
The guy can block… …Problem is, he’s a flake. It’s hard to back up Jason Witten, but he never pushed to get more playing time. Witten never had to sweat that Martellus was gaining on him.
If I may also add, Bennett averaged 31 snaps per game over the last 2 years, which was more than ample opportunity to produce more than this:
What’s crazy is that those numbers don’t even begin to tell the story of just how useless Bennett really was in the passing game. Somebody with the handle “NYGiantsCentral” on YouTube edited together video of every target Martellus Bennett had over the last two seasons. I’ll be kind and just say that I don’t see much of anything here that would make an opposing defense respect him as any sort of threat in the passing game:
Watching those two videos, 45 of Bennett’s 50 receptions over the past 2 years fell exclusively into 4 buckets:
- Short (2-10 yard) stop routes
- TE screens
- Nobody was open, the play broke down, and the QB found Bennett as a safety valve
- The misdirection screen, AKA the “Oh shit” screen
That was basically the limit to what Bennett was capable of in Dallas’ passing game. He also had one catch on a shallow crosser, and just 4 catches (that’s 1-2-3-4) in which he caught a pass more than 10 yards down the field.
Here’s how all of Bennett’s receptions over the last 2 years look in graph form:
Additionally, assuming the two above videos are truly including all of Bennett’s targets, here are his QB’s numbers whenever they tried to connect with Bennett more than 10 yards down field:
OK… So have a adequately hammered home the point that Bennett was complete non-factor in the Cowboys’ passing game? Yes? OK, well I think we already knew that, so let’s move on to what I saw in practice.
At the first Giants OTA I attended, here’s what I wrote about Bennett:
Martellus Bennett is listed at 6’6, 270. We can see those numbers and know that he’s a big guy. But sometimes you don’t really grasp how enormous a player is until you see him in 3D. Bennett is one of those guys. I hadn’t really planned on paying too much attention to Marty, but I wound up watching him quite a bit. His athleticism is everything as advertised. It’s impressive how well he moves for a guy his size. However, (and I’ll say this bluntly)… His route running sucks. On 2 consecutive plays, I watched him run a little 10 yard stop. Both times, he got to his spot quickly, but executed a very lazy turn back to the QB. I could have flipped around more quickly. On that kind of route, when you hit your spot, you want to turn your body sharply back to the QB and give him a big target. Bennett’s turns were slow and lazy. In a weird way, I think this should be looked at as a positive. From what I saw, Bennett’s deficiencies are fixable. Last year, the Giants took a complete unknown in Jake Ballard and turned him into a guy that would contribute 604 receiving yards. In terms of pure talent, Ballard doesn’t touch Bennett with a 10 foot pole. It’ll be interesting to see what the Giants can do with him.
Two things to note here:
- There was nothing wrong with his hamstring that day (or at least you’d never know it if there was). This was the first time I had ever seen Bennett practice in person, and I immediately identified how lazy his route running was.
- Take a look at the rest of the notes from that day. Mostly positive, right? So if you think I’m picking on Bennett because I just feel like picking on the Giants, think again.
The route running I saw that day prompted me to go back to look at some tape of him. Here’s what I wrote then:
I wanted to go back and look at the tape to see if what I saw in OTAs mirrored his game action, and really what I found is that he’s kind of a fascinating player. I chose the Week 16 Dallas-Philly matchup, since he was targeted 6 times in that game. There was one stretch in the 2nd quarter (three consecutive plays) where you can really see the good and bad of Martellus Bennett (You may need to use the full screen function):
These were three consecutive plays in a game against Philly:
- On the first play, Bennett is lined up left side, a yard off the line of scrimmage. His route is a little 7-8 yard stop, not unlike the ones I watched at Giants OTAs. The Eagles are in zone, and Bennett’s route goes right into the area of the field occupied by Brian Rolle. As noted above, Bennett is 6’6, 270. Rolle is 5’9, 229. This should be an easy win for Bennett, who should have little problem posting up the much smaller Rolle. Nope. Bennett runs in a straight line right into Rolle, never using his hands to fend off the much smaller defender, who easily gives Bennett a shot right into his shoulder pads, knocking Bennett off balance and making him useless in the pattern. This is a terrible route. However, once the QB has dumped the ball to the running back, it’s almost like a switch is flips in Bennett’s head, as he aggressively attacks Rolle as a blocker, driving him a good 8 yards down the field.
- On the next play, we see Bennett as a run blocker. He is lined up in line on the right side. Here, he takes on Jason Babin. First he steers Babin out wide, and once Bennett gets his hands on Babin, that’s pretty much it for him. Bennett looks to continue driving Babin through the whistle, loses his helmet, and then mixes it up a little with Jamar Chaney. Good block, good effort, well done.
- On the next play, we see Bennett out wide to the right. The play is designed to go left, and Bennett knows this, so he runs a very lazy 10 yard stop route. This is the kind of thing I saw at OTAs last week. That is not route running. It’s running through the motions.
Some players are great receivers, and give crappy effort in the blocking game. From what I saw, Bennett was the reverse, which is rare. I think that sometimes human nature is to expend more effort at things in life that you’re good at, and maybe not try so hard in some areas of deficiency. You can probably apply that to any aspect of life, not just football. I wonder if that is what is going on here with Martellus Bennett? After 4 seasons of virtually no receiving production in Dallas’ offense, could it just be that he has no confidence in his game as a receiver, and is content to let that part of his game go unimproved? The raw ability is there. Dallas was never able to get him to harness that talent and translate it into a contributor in the passing game. It will be interesting to see if the Giants can.
The next practice I attended was when I saw him barely jogging in 7 on 7′s, when I wrote:
Bear Pascoe got a lot more reps with the 1′s today than Martellus Bennett. I watched Bennett run one route in 7 on 7′s today. Barely jogged. It’s not like we’re in Day 20 of training camp in sweltering August heat and he’s understandably taking a play off. We’re in Day 2 of a minicamp, it’s 70 degrees with a calm breeze, and after Thursday, there are no practices until the end of July. Totally unacceptable effort and body language.
I was aware of the hamstring issue, but this went beyond a player with a little muscle pain. I’ve seen players work out with various injuries. The hamstring thing is no excuse for what I saw. He was most certainly not, as Pat Traina put it in the comment section at Big Blue Interactive, “giving it a go.” There was no limp, he didn’t appear to be favoring it as far as I could see, and frankly, if his leg was that bad, the Giants’ staff wouldn’t have put him out there.
There are 90 players at practice. I happened to be watching Martellus Bennett quite a bit that day. Seeing a player loafing around isn’t terribly obvious unless you’re specifically watching him. As such, it stands to reason that another beat writer like Pat didn’t see what I saw, which was a pure lack of effort. Now, if you feel the need to dismiss away my observations because I’m “blogger” and not a “journalist” (whatever that means), then by all means, that is your prerogative.
A fair argument is that the Giants don’t have much else at TE. Bear Pascoe is far from a starting caliber TE, Adrien Robinson is a rookie, and guys like Christian Hopkins and and Ryan Purvis may prove to be nothing more than camp bodies. But it’s not as if Martellus Bennett is setting some sort of high bar here. I’m on board that he’s a good blocker, but if you’re going to be basically useless in the passing game, then you may as well just put in an extra offensive tackle instead of Bennett, especially if you look like you’re not trying to get better.
The Giants have put up with headaches like Osi Umenyiora in the past. Osi Umenyiora can play. Martellus Bennett, on the other hand…