There are moments when the Giants are inside the 20-yard line and nothing is going on and the end zone might as well be a million miles away when a thought must creep into the minds of those wondering what's going on:
Why not just throw it up there and let the biggest guys on the field go get it?
"I'm all for it,'' tight end Kevin Boss exclaimed.
As one of the biggest guys, Boss is itching to be a part of the solution to a problem that confounded the Giants early this season. In the first two games, they were 0-for-8 in the red zone, meaning they hadn't scored a single touchdown in the area Tom Coughlin optimistically refers to as "the green zone.'' That's green, as in go, only for the Giants, it was a no-go area.
One of those eight failures came on the final drive of the 33-31 victory at Cowboys Stadium, when a touchdown wasn't needed and Lawrence Tynes' game-winning field goal was certainly the desirable result. More fairly, make it 0-for-7 in the red zone in the first two games, which doesn't look any better.
The Giants finally broke through in Tampa, scoring on their first two red-zone appearances against the dreadful Buccaneers, first on a run by Brandon Jacobs and a bit later on an Eli Manning touchdown pass to Steve Smith.
There are no guarantees, though, that this was the end of the red zone troubles.
"It is definitely an area we need to improve on, something we struggled with last year too,'' Boss said. "We spent quite a bit of time working on it in training camp. I'm not too worried about it, I think it's going to come around and we'll end up being a good red zone team.''
Perhaps the answer is to force-feed Boss and towering rookie receiver Ramses Barden into the action. Both stand 6-6, Boss at a sturdy 253 pounds and Barden at a statuesque 227. In his first season, Boss had only nine receptions but two of them were touchdowns. Last year, of his 33 catches, six went for touchdowns. Barden in 46 games at Cal Poly had 50 touchdowns, including 36 his last two years. Maybe in time they can even sprinkle in a little Travis Beckum, the 6-3 rookie tight end who had 11 touchdowns at Wisconsin. Boss, Barden and Beckum. Has a ring to it.
Even with the 6-5 Plaxico Burress on the scene last season the Giants were only marginally-effective in the red zone, although his sheer size always made him a threat. As impressive as Steve Smith and Mario Manningham have been, both stand just 5-11 and are better in open spaces than the confinement of the close quarters inside the 20. In those situations, size often matters.
"It's a tremendous advantage,'' said Barden, who was inactive in the season opener and in the first three games did not get any reps with the offense. "Everyone's got their niche. When you're able to kind of have a natural advantage over the opponent it helps a lot. There's a comfort zone there that you can give to the quarterback that they might not otherwise have or they have to find other ways with other receivers.''
Boss has repeatedly shown the ability to rise up above smaller defenders out in the middle of the field. He knows he can also do it in the end zone.
"It's definitely a big factor when it comes to that area of the field,'' Boss said. "To be able to go up and get the ball, I think all tight ends are a legitimate threat down there because we usually have a height advantage.''
In time, the Giants want Beckum to become a factor in the shadow of the end zone and first-round pick Hakeem Nicks – who missed two games with a sprained foot – is only 6-foot but plays bigger than that. Boss in the 3-0 start had six receptions for 102 yards and – in addition to injecting some life into the stalled running game – getting him involved in the red zone is going to have to become a priority.
"I always feel comfortable down there, when we get the ball down in that area I kind of get excited,'' Boss said. "It's just a matter of being able to feel comfortable and being able to read the defense and know what to do to react and get open.''
Boss wasn't involved much at all against the Cowboys, as he was needed to stay in and block against the likes of DeMarcus Ware.
"Obviously it helped out, we didn't give up any sacks but we didn't do too well in the green zone,'' Boss said. "I think there are going to be opportunities for me. It's still early. It's just a matter of time.''
Barden admits "the hunger rises'' when his team is moving in range of the end zone.
"The closer you get the more amped you get for that kind of situation,'' he said. "Every day my goal is to get a little closer, to open some more eyes. When my name is called I want to be there and be able to make plays.''
If Barden is able to make a few more plays in practice the Giants will surely give him a shot at rising over someone in the red zone.
"That's something he is very talented at, that's something he'll be able to do well for his entire career,'' Boss said. "It's just a matter of him taking his time to be comfortable with the offense. I think before the year is over we'll be using him down there.''
Boss, Barden & Beckum
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