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Dottino: Ballard Claim Puts Giants In Tight Spot

By Paul Dottino
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EAST RUTHERFORD  The Patriots' claiming of injured tight end Jake Ballard sent a ripple through the Giants' complex that will be felt at least until the team proves it has a quality replacement – and maybe beyond.

The Giants apparently did not expect Ballard, who was coming off major knee surgery, to play this year so they tried to sneak him through waivers to get him on the PUP list - where he would not count against their roster or salary cap. But the Patriots jumped in and snagged Ballard, hoping he'll return to form in 2013.

Ballard was very popular in the locker room. He developed from a street free agent into a clutch player who helped the Giants beatNew Englandin Super Bowl XLVI. From top to bottom, the Giants' organization will miss him.

So what do they do now?

Bear Pascoe is the incumbent, although his skills are limited and he's best suited as an H-back. Free agent veteran Martellus Bennett never lived up to his potential inDallas, although he claims it was because he was buried behind All-Pro Jason Witten. Critics argue that Bennett may have only himself to blame, citing a cavalier attitude. The Giants are taking a wait-and-see approach with Bennett, having signed him to a one-year contract – perhaps thinking it's the incentive he needs to have a breakout season.

The roster also includes the underachieving Travis Beckum, who is coming off major knee surgery and may open the season on the PUP list, although he is targeting a return for opening day. And the Giants used a fourth-round pick on Adrien Robinson ofCincinnati, but he primarily was used as a blocker in college and has raw receiving skills.

Coach Tom Coughlin may not be able to sort out the position until opening day. Then again, it may take longer. But at least he's got Mike Pope, the best tight ends coach in the NFL, on the case.

Who will replace Jake Ballard for the Giants this season? Sound off in the comments section below...

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