How Giants’ new playmaker will propel another player’s breakout

New York Giants tight end Daniel Bellinger (82) celebrates with New York Giants tight end Darren Waller (12) after catching a touchdown pass against the Carolina Panthers during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium
John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants put newly-acquired TE Darren Waller’s abilities on full display during their Week 2 preseason game on Friday night. Waller looked like an elite playmaker, playing just one drive and catching three receptions for 30 yards in eight snaps. The drive was capped off with a touchdown, however, it was another tight end that made the score.

TE Daniel Bellinger found himself wide-open in the flat for an easy walk-in touchdown after the entire defense focused in on Waller, springing the second TE open. This play highlighted Waller’s importance in the Giants’ offense, as well as his ability to propel his fellow teammate into a breakout season.

Daniel Bellinger is ready for a breakout 2023 season

Bellinger stood out as a rookie in 2022. The fourth-round draft pick totaled 30 receptions for 268 yards and two touchdowns (plus one rushing touchdown) in 12 games last year. Entering 2023, Bellinger appeared ready to embark on a breakout second season. However, the addition of Waller in the lineup will inevitably push Bellinger down a depth chart.

Many believed that Waller’s presence in the lineup will hold Bellinger back from breaking out during his second season. However, Preseason Week 2 made it clear that Waller will have the opposite effect on his fellow tight end teammate.

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Darren Waller will propel the Bellinger breakout

After Waller received four targets and made three receptions earlier in the drive, the Carolina Panthers’ defense zoned in on the elite playmaker once the Giants’ offense entered the red zone. On the final play of the drive, New York lined up in 12-personnel (two tight ends on the field) with Waller and Bellinger alongside each other.

As the play begins, the Panthers’ defensive backs double-team Waller on an over route, while Bellinger runs wide-open into the flat on the under route. Plays like this will become a regular occurrence in 2023 as defenses key in on Waller and the Giants run far more 12-personnel this season.

The Giants can utilize more 12-personnel

Rather than cutting down Bellinger’s playing time in 2023 in favor of Waller, New York will opt to get both of their two playmakers on the field as frequently as possible. QB Daniel Jones had far more success on early downs out of 12-personnel last season than he did in 11 personnel:

Daniel Jones on early down attempts from 12-personnel (per Warren Sharp):

  • +0.30 EPA/att (#7)
  • 9.3 YPA (#4)
  • 53% success (#12)
  • 85% comp (#3) on 48 att

Daniel Jones on early down attempts from 11-personnel:

  • +0.06 EPA/att (#15)
  • 6.9 YPA (#20)
  • 46% success (#23)
  • 69% comp (#10) on 295 att

Unfortunately, due to New York’s lack of depth at the TE position, Jones was forced to play with three or more WRs on the field far more frequently than he would like in 2022. But in 2023, fans can expect to see the Giants line up frequently with two tight ends on the field, making the most of the double-headed TE monster they are nurturing with Waller and Bellinger.