ALBANY, N.Y. — Neither tight end Martellus Bennett nor running back D.J. Ware ever have established themselves as anything more than reliable backups in the NFL.
They may never have a better opportunity to showcase their talents than this season with the Giants.
“I came in with the mind frame that this is going to be my year,” Ware said Sunday as the Giants resumed training camp at SUNY-Albany following a 32-31 loss at Jacksonville on Friday night in their preseason opener in which both he and Bennett reached the end zone.
Ware, 27, entering his fifth season with the Giants, could be the third-down back in a rushing tandem with Ahmad Bradshaw and first-rounder David Wilson. Bennett, 25, he of the outsized personality, signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal after four seasons behind Jason Witten with the Cowboys.
And through one preseason game – the Giants face the host Jets on Saturday at MetLife Stadium — quarterback Eli Manning likes what he sees.
Bennett caught three passes for 27 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown from David Carr. Ware rushed five times for 30 yards, including a 2-yard score and a 16-yard gain.
“I thought running, we had a couple of big runs, and that’s what we missed in the past, those 10-, 12-, 15-yard runs,” Manning said.
“I thought Martellus did very well, he blocked very well in the running game, he had a nice catch for a touchdown and another catch where he broke a couple of tackles,” Manning added. “Danny’s been our third-down guy and he does a good job in protection and he’s really our best route runner out of the backfield.”
The Giants certainly need more reliability out of the backfield. Last season, their team average of 3.5 yards per carry ranked last in the NFL. Ware had career highs with 163 yards on 46 carries in last season’s three-headed attack that included Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, now with the 49ers.
Then again, the Super Bowl champion-Giants used the 32nd overall pick on Wilson.
“A little bit,” Ware said when asked whether his solid preseason performances have not resulted in more regular-season playing time. “But I had guys in front of me that have been here longer than me so it was one of those things that you’ve got to wait your turn. I feel I’ve waited my turn and hopefully my turn is here. At the same time, you have a first-round draft pick so you’ve just got to stay positive in your mind and on the field.”
Bennett, too, has tried to keep a positive frame of mind through “a tough past couple of years.” He has 85 career receptions for 846 yards, including 17 catches for 144 yards last season. But all four of his career touchdown receptions came as a rookie in 2008.
“I thought it was a decent start,” Bennett said of Friday’s game. “I’m happy being here, happy with the things we’re doing and being happy makes a big difference.”
Bennett then described his goals as the “ultimate pursuit of happiness and the perfect play.”
Jake Ballard led the Giants’ tight ends with 38 catches for 604 yards and four touchdowns last season but blew out his knee in the Super Bowl and was claimed by the Patriots in the off-season. Bennett and Bear Pascoe started in a two-tight end set against the Jaguars.
Earlier in camp, Bennett described himself as a “black unicorn” and a jovial Tom Coughlin just laughed Sunday when asked about Bennett.
“He’s an interesting guy, I don’t have the proper vocabulary,” the coach said. “I like them to have their own personality. I just like them to be able to structure it within the concept of trying to keep the focus on the game and on the field and on the team. I don’t like robots.”
At this point, Coughlin actually moved around the podium pretending to be a robot.
“I like it when they realize when it’s acceptable and when it isn’t acceptable,” Coughlin said. “He’s gotten better.”