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NY Post
New York Post
5 Aug 2023


NextImg:Giants’ Daniel Bellinger not worried about role after Darren Waller addition: ‘He’s a unicorn’

First one … then another and another. And then another and another. 

The first five questions directed at Daniel Bellinger the other day focused not on what the young tight end can do in his second year with the Giants, but what exploits Darren Waller might create in his first year with the team. 

All Waller, all the time.

At one point, Bellinger was asked if he ever says “wow’’ watching Waller thus far in training camp. 

Bellinger smiled. 

“All the time, yeah,’’ he said. “He’s a unicorn player. Watching him be able to do what he does, even at his age, it’s amazing. Definitely a lot of ‘wow’ moments with Darren.’’ 

The plan for the Giants’ passing attack this season is a heavy dose of the 30-year old Waller.

The plan also includes a steady dose of 12-personnel sets, with two tight ends on the field, so that means Bellinger and Waller should be able to play off each other quite often. 

Daniel Bellinger quietly had a strong rookie season despite a gruesome eye injury.
Bill Kostroun for the NY Post

Tucked into an eventful season for the Giants in 2022 was a solid NFL debut for Bellinger, a fourth-round pick out of San Diego State.

He started 11 games and, though he was not prolific as a pass-catcher, he certainly was efficient. 

Bellinger was targeted 35 times and came away with 30 receptions for 268 yards and two touchdowns, plus another touchdown in the Giants’ playoff victory over the Vikings.

Daniel Jones compiled a passer rating of 120.8 when throwing to Bellinger. 

Befitting his size (6-foot-6 and 255 pounds), Bellinger was a capable and improving run blocker, grading out as the 15th-best tight end in the league in that speciality, according to Pro Football Focus. 

Bellinger also showed great resolve in coming back from a gruesome injury.

During the Giants’ Week 7 game, he fractured an orbital bone in his left eye when Jaguars rookie linebacker Devin Lloyd accidentally stuck his hand inside Bellinger’s facemask.

Bellinger experienced double-vision, required surgery and missed four games.

He donned a protective visor upon his return. 

In mid-March, Bellinger learned his second NFL season would include a high-profile teammate added to the tight ends room when the Giants sent a third-round draft pick to the Raiders for Waller.

Darren Waller

Darren Waller is expected to be a focal point of the Giants’ passing game.
AP

It did not take a football savant to realize the towering and athletically gifted newcomer would be a magnet for the ball, attracting Jones’ attention.

That has to mean fewer opportunities for Bellinger in the passing game. 

“I don’t really think of it like that,’’ Bellinger said. “What Darren does opens up for everybody, not just in the tight end room, but in the receiving room and it opens up everything all together. So, I wouldn’t say I think about the targets or the passes or whatever that is. I think of it as just what’s going to help the team the best, what’s going to put us in the best position to win. I think Darren does a great job for us and for myself.” 

It helps Bellinger and all the other tight ends — Lawrence Cager, Tommy Sweeney and Chris Myarick — that Waller does not carry himself like an aloof star. 

Daniel Bellinger scores during the Giants' win over the Panthers on Sept. 18, 2022.

Daniel Bellinger scores during the Giants’ win over the Panthers on Sept. 18, 2022.
USA TODAY Sports

“He’s a great guy,’’ Bellinger said. “That was the biggest thing for me, just being able to just talk to him as a person. I think he’s been helping me a lot and helping everybody. He’s a good guy all around.’’ 

A goal for his second season, Bellinger said, is to take the field more self-assured than he was as a rookie.

He also admitted he needs to have more of a command of the entire offense and not merely his role in the system. 

“I definitely have more confidence now,’’ Bellinger said. “I feel more confident being able to read a defense as well, and just different kinds of small things that I was so hyper focused on last year that now I can really sit back and be like, ‘OK, I got this, I got that.’

“I still have to make sure I’m good at those things but being able to focus on bigger picture things as well.’’ 

When Waller was given a veteran day off during the second week of camp, Bellinger seized the increased opportunity and caught two touchdown passes.

Perhaps he, too, can create a few “wow’’ moments.