New York Giants
Jake Ballard knows exactly how he was perceived in the preseason: as a block-first tight end.
"Block-first" was a kind way of saying Ballard wasn't good enough to fill the void left by ex-starter Kevin Boss.
He heard the message loud and clear from fans and team observers in the preseason.
“Everyone said, ‘Oh, we need to get a tight end!” Ballard said on Friday.
Did that bother him?
"I really didn’t care what a lot of people are thinking. If I cared what people thought, I probably wouldn’t even be here right now," he said.
For Ballard, 'here' is at the top of the Giants' depth chart, as their top pass-catching tight-end.
Ballard caught all five balls thrown to him on Sunday against Buffalo, totaling 81 yards. He is the Giants' third-leading receiver heading into the bye week.
Not bad for a guy who is supposed to be block-first.
Eli Manning, for one, isn't surprised by Ballard's success.
"He’s understanding the system. He doesn’t have the great speed, but he just has a great feel for what to do," Manning said. "You can see it on a few of the plays today. It’s not exactly how they were scripted, but he scrambles around. He has a feel for what’s going on. He’s catching the ball well and playing smart football."
AT FIRST, DEFENSE RESTS: The Giants' defense made an awful first impression on Sunday.
On the first play of their second drive, Buffalo running back Fred Jackson ran basically untouched for an 80-yard touchdown.
Safety Deon Grant appeared to take a bad route to Jackson on the play.
Six Bills plays later, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Naaman Roosevelt for a 60-yard touchdown. Both Corey Webster and Michael Boley missed prime opportunities to take Roosevelt down.
The Bills led 14-7 at the end of the first.
"They didn't do anything spectacular," Antrel Rolle said. "We just didn’t play assignment football. They got two big plays out of us but other than that we just stuck in the rest of the game."
That they did.
The Bills gained 178 yards in the first but just 200 over the final three quarters. Jackson rushed for 82 yards on his first two carries but had only 39 on his next 14.
The defensive line had a strong day, sacking Fitzpatrick three times. Fittingly, the game ended when Jason Pierre-Paul batted down a Fitzpatrick pass.