ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Kevin Boss didn't post big numbers as a rookie with the New York Giants. The tight end just made big plays after taking over for an injured Jeremy Shockey late in the season.
There was the 45-yard catch and run in the Super Bowl that set up the Giants' first touchdown. Maybe even more important was his 19-yard reception late in the second-quarter against Dallas in the NFC semifinal that helped tie the game just before halftime.
Both were huge in the Giants' run to the NFL championship.
Boss enters his second season facing a lot more pressure in the wake of the Giants' decision to trade the disgruntled Shockey to New Orleans days before the start of training camp.
It thrust Boss into a starting role with the burden of replacing a four-time Pro Bowler.
"I am sure there is an expectation," Boss said Saturday before the Giants held their last full practice before breaking camp. "The only thing we can do is go out and play to our highest ability and play to what we are capable of. I think we are all excited for this opportunity to prove we can get it done."
While there are five tight ends in camp, there is no doubt Boss is No. 1. Mike Matthews, Darcy Johnson, Eric Butler and Jerome Collins are working for the backup spots.
Unlike Shockey, who was brash and outspoken, Boss is humble and
choses words carefully.
"I am not officially the starter for the season, but I feel confident that I can be the starter and I am excited for the opportunity," Boss said.
There is no doubt Boss can catch the ball. Throughout training camp, he has worked with quarterback Eli Manning and the first unit and caught almost everything in his direction.
During a recent practice, Boss ran a seam pattern and made a leaping catch downfield before falling to the ground.
"Jeremy Who?" a fan yelled from the stands at the University at Albany.
Funny? Yes. But it won't mean much unless Boss can do that consistently, as Shockey did.
Before breaking his leg in December and missing the rest of the season, Shockey had 57 catches for 619 yards and three touchdowns.
Almost overlooked was Shockey's blocking ability. In the 14 regular-season games in which he was in the lineup, the Giants averaged 4.4 yards per carry. In four postseason games when Boss started, the average slipped to 3.5.
In the preseason opener against the Lions, Boss and his fellow tight ends were adequate at best with their blocking assignments.
"We are not where we need to be yet," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "There have been flashes, and I think you'll see some moments when you'll say, "OK, good he's got it," but we're not as consistent as we need to be. Our guys have certain things that they each can do well, but we may not have the one guy who can do it all.
"Kevin Boss is going to be a good receiver; he's going to make a lot of catches. I think he is going to be the first one to tell you that he needs to continue to work on his blocking," Gilbride added.
The 24-year-old Boss has the athleticism to be an outstanding tight end. At 6-foot-6, he is a big target. He is also mobile. He played basketball and football at Western Oregon.
"Kevin has a big role to fill and he's still got a lot to learn in becoming a big playmaker for us," Manning said. "Last year, when we lost Shockey, we did some more four-wide receiver stuff when we got into passing downs. We put Steve Smith in the tight end position and let him do some of the things that we tried to do with Shockey. We'll see how we manage but, hopefully a whole lot won't change and we'll still use a lot of tight end formations. Kevin will have to step up."
The one thing working in Boss' favor is he believes he can do the job.
"I played under as much pressure as I can during that Super Bowl," Boss said. "Right now I feel I have a lot of confidence and I want to go out and prove that I can play."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)