Kevin Boss has made Giants forget Jeremy Shockey
Thrust into a starting role when the Super Bowl champions traded the disgruntled tight end to New Orleans on the eve of training camp, Boss has made the deal that sent Shockey to the Saints look like a steal for general manager Jerry Reese.
New York will get the Saints' second- and fifth-round draft picks this year for Shockey, the four-time Pro Bowl selection who had 50 catches for 483 yards and no touchdowns playing 12 games with New Orleans, including one that featured a confrontation with quarterback Drew Brees.
Boss' statistics were not as good in his first season as a starter. His 33 regular-season catches for 384 yards in 15 games are about half what his predecessor averaged in his six seasons with New York.
However, Boss has done what some experts didn't expect: He has made big plays, catching a team-high six touchdowns. He also developed into a better-than-expected blocker, one of the big reasons the Giants averaged 5 yards a carry and had Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward each rush for more than 1,000 yards.
"I'm feeling comfortable out there," said Boss, who missed the regular-season finale with a concussion and ankle injury. "I feel like I have improved in all areas of the game as the season has gone on. There is always room for improvement, but for my first year starting, I felt like it went pretty well."
The season didn't start well for the second-year pro who was drafted in the fifth round out of little Western Oregon. Boss caught just six passes for one touchdown in the first six games, and many times it seemed that Eli Manning wasn't even looking for him on pass patterns.
Unlike Shockey, who used to wave his arms in disgust when he didn't get the ball, the soft-spoken Boss kept quiet. He didn't even approach his quarterback to ask that the ball head his way a little more. He just kept working.
"I don't think I was doing anything wrong at the beginning of the year," said Boss, who admitted feeling some pressure in training camp. "It wasn't like I was dropping passes, I just wasn't getting the ball. After that, Eli started feeling comfortable throwing to me and I started getting a little more involved in the offense."
The area that has been the most improved has been Boss' blocking.
After Shockey broke his leg late in the season, Boss started the final two regular-season games and all four playoff contests. His clutch 19-yard reception set up a tying touchdown just before halftime in the NFC semifinal win over Dallas, and his 45-yard catch and run set up a David Tyree TD in the Super Bowl.
However, the Giants' rushing game also averaged a yard less after Boss replaced Shockey. It was one of the major areas the former basketball power forward worked on in the offseason.
"People said that he was not a good blocker and I think he took that as a personal challenge," offensive tackle David Diehl said. "You can see that from last spring to training camp that he tried to turn it into a positive in his game, because he understands how important his blocking is for the offense to succeed."
Boss laughed about his blocking ability before he started working with tight ends coach Mike Pope and offensive line coach Pat Flaherty.
"I got away with so much in college with using bad technique and because of the level of play I was at," Boss said during the postseason bye week for the Giants (12-4). "The coaches got me to use the right technique. It took a while to take on, and to be able to use it in the game and not revert to the old habits, but once I did I was able to do a lot better."
In the passing game, Manning said that Boss has found the holes in the defense, especially near the goal line.
"We are putting him in some different spots and having him doing different things and he has really progressed," Manning said. "He has a great feel for the timing of everything."
Backup quarterback David Carr said Boss' 6-foot-6 frame is a great help for the quarterbacks. The other thing he has noticed is the young tight end usually doesn't go down after the first hit.
"In our offense the tight end is not going to catch 100 balls," Carr said. "It's geared toward the receivers, pounding the ball and play-action stuff. The tight end, I think, is viable with his blocking. That's one of the things Kevin does, and he is getting better at that."
Center Shaun O'Hara said people tend to forget that Boss didn't play much last season until Shockey was hurt.
"The hard thing as a tight end is you don't get enough time to do everything, so you are a jack of all trades," O'Hara said. "You work with the run blocking, the pass game. There is not enough time in the day to work on everything. He's done a good job."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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