EAST RUTHERFORD – Daniel Bellinger can’t wait to punch someone. Someone.
It’s who he is on the football pitch and what he does best, the quality of his play that should help him take the lead to the next level.
The Giants tight end is eager to line up next to fellow right rookie Evan Neal and execute the perfect double team, whether the tandem ends up gushing Saquon Barkley on a long run or keeping Daniel Jones up enough long to make a play on the field.
The NFL doesn’t allow contact before training camp, of course, so for Bellinger, whose willingness to make opponents feel his presence is part of his football DNA, the quest to stand out on the field of training was an inherent challenge that he was going to face during spring training.
Still, Bellinger managed to leave an impression without yet showcasing the most impressive part of his skills.
“I like being able to block someone,” Bellinger said with a smile. “I feel like that’s football. That’s how I grew up, with a mindset that hitting someone is football. So blocking someone , it’s football. I love to block.
The Giants believe there’s more to the 6-foot-6, 252-pound game than that, and it’s the perfect testing ground for Bellinger to expand his profile and become a versatile threat at the position.
In four years at San Diego State, Bellinger caught just 68 passes, including 31 last year as a senior. He was used more as an extension of the offensive line than a receiver, but Giants scouts loved how he projected himself into the NFL within the system built by head coach Brian Daboll and coordinator offensive Mike Kafka.
“He’s one of those rare guys today who can really do it all,” Giants tight ends coach Andy Bischoff said of Bellinger, who was drafted in the fourth round. “He can block, he can protect and what we want him to do is open up against man cover. He can do all of these things.
Bellinger, 21, moved throughout the lineup, including the backfield, as the Giants offered a ton of snaps with the first-team offense, including Jones and Barkley.
Bellinger is going to be used differently than Evan Engram, now with the Jaguars. He’s not necessarily a seam breaker, but Bellinger has good quickness in the short areas and looks confident on the short to intermediate routes, allowing him to go around the perimeter and accelerate down the field, creating lags for linebackers who will struggle to account for his change of direction.
This was especially true in practice in the red zone drills when rookie short receiver Wan’Dale Robinson and Bellinger worked in similar space, causing coverage issues for the defense due to their complementary talents.
“It’s hectic right now trying to understand the full concept of the playbook instead of just what you do, and learning what the Y, the F and knowing what the X and the Z, just to understand the whole concept,” Bellinger says with a smile. “Because the tight end of this role can really be lined up anywhere. I like the versatility of [the position].”
The Giants signed veterans Ricky Seals-Jones and Jordan Akins to one-year contracts, but Bellinger has already climbed to the top of Daboll’s “rep table” and with plenty of room to grow as minicamp and program offseason ended this week. .
Along with the rest of the rookies, Bellinger will stay in North Jersey for another week as part of the Giants’ development program. His training as a professional will continue later this month in Nashville at Tight End University, a showcase event hosted by Greg Olsen, George Kittle and Travis Kelce.
The event provides a chance for some of the NFL’s best tight ends to come together and share trade secrets on and off the field. They’ll watch a movie, perform stance drills, and discuss how to improve their bodies and skills, all with the goal of improving the tight ends profile as a whole.
“I just want to learn from them,” Bellinger said, speaking specifically about Kittle, Kelce and Olsen. “I have a long way to go, but the most important thing for me is to learn from them. You grow up watching them, then in college you watch them on tape. But, now, I have the opportunity to text them or talk to them, I can really get an inside perspective.”
Bellinger and Kittle share an agent, Jack Bechta, so they connected during the NFL Draft process, exchanging texts and going out to dinner together one night.
“He picked his brains out on a lot of things,” said Bellinger, who studied Kittle’s video as a one-ton blocker in college. “I just learned from him and being a sponge, absorbing everything he says and everything he did as a rookie and how he got to the point where he is.”
Bellinger was drafted 112th overall, 34 spots ahead of Kittle before the 49ers selected him in the fifth round. Kittle is a three-time Pro Bowler, earning All-Pro honors in 2019, and is widely considered the NFL’s best tight end.
“I always had a chip on my shoulder being a 2 star [recruit out of high school]”Said Bellinger. “You have to work hard to get here, even though I was a first lap and ran a 4.3. Of course, talent helps you get [to the NFL]but it’s hard work that keeps you there.”
Art Stapleton is the Giants beats writer for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to all Giants analysis, news, deals and more, please sign up today and sign up for our NFC East newsletter.
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