As we count down the days to training camp, Around the League will examine one player from every team set for a breakout campaign in 2012. We've wrapped up the AFC and are moving through the NFC. Next up, the New York Giants.
Though he was behind Witten on the Dallas Cowboys' depth chart over the past four seasons, playing time was never an issue for Martellus Bennett. A 2008 second-round pick out of Texas A&M, Bennett played in nearly 40 percent of the Cowboys' snaps as a rookie and nearly half the team's snaps in 2009. According to official playing-time documents, Bennett logged 1,778 snaps in his 60-game career with the Cowboys, but was mostly an afterthought in the offense.
As we noted last week, Bennett was targeted just 130 times with the Cowboys, or 7.3 percent of the time he was on the field. The surprising thing is Bennett took advantage of his limited opportunities, catching 85 passes (good for a 65 percent catch rate) for 846 yards with four touchdowns in 60 games.
With the Giants losing both Travis Beckum and Jake Ballard to serious knee injuries in Super Bowl XLV (and Ballard lost to the New England Patriots in an ill-advised attempt to sneak him onto injured reserve), the only other tight end with any experience on the Giants' roster is Bear Pascoe, who is more of a blocker with just 22 career receptions. Bennett signed a one-year, $1.8 million contract in March, but according to a source with knowledge of the contract, he can earn an additional $700,000 in incentives tied to playing time, receptions and touchdowns.
The biggest question seems to be about whether or not Bennett, after bulking up to 291 pounds, is simply too big to break out. Bennett went shirtless during an interview during the OTAs to show that he's not fat, just a physical freak. The Giants do not appear to be overly concerned with Bennett's mass, and he could be too big a target for Eli Manning to ignore.