When I last worked for Bill Parcells in 2005, he would always use a line in the personnel meetings that I thought was outstanding. When a scout would go on and on about a player, Parcells would say "Well, your pet cat…." which always put a smile on my face because everyone in the room knew he was right. If I was still scouting for this team, James Hanna would be my pet cat.
When he was drafted last season out of Oklahoma, I honestly didn't know very much about him and the type of traits he brought to a team. His film was solid but not dominating. He showed up as an outstanding athlete that would make crazy contested catches but would drop balls when he was alone in space. He wasn't the type of blocker that would lead you to believe that he could be a force as an inline "Y" because most of his blocks were executed on the move but he has developed some inline techniques. Where Hanna made his biggest jump was on the scout team working with Kyle Orton. There were several weeks where the defense had to face a quality tight end and Hanna was making play after play against Rob Ryan's group and the coaches stood up and took notice.
With the push of Garrett and Callahan to use "12" personnel as a base package, the club went out and drafted Gavin Escobar in the 2nd round but was interesting, knowing they were looking to go with this package is they passed on the best tight end in the draft, Tyler Eifert who ended up in Cincinnati which might have made some sense. Escobar has some really nice traits with his hands and size but he is nowhere as athletic as Hanna who can be a mismatch problem for a defense much like Jason Witten.
When I watch Hanna play, I see an explosive, up the field player that runs smooth routes and plays with an ease of movement. I don't hear Jason Garrett asking him to play faster or quicker like I do with Escobar. There is suddenness to Hanna's game and you see it whether he is blocking or catching the ball. He has developed more as a catcher and there is consistency there which at Oklahoma, there was none. I really thought he was a 50-50 catcher in college but if the ball is in the frame work of his body or he has to make a serious adjustment, he can pull it off. [embedded_ad]
I really do like what they are doing scheme wise in this "12" personnel because I feel like it takes advantage of the strengths of these tight ends. It's not asking them to stand in there toe-to-toe and have to hammer someone on the line but it also gives them the flexibility to get athletic receivers into the route. I understand why they drafted Gavin Escobar and one day he has a chance to develop but if you are asking me right, who is the best man for the job to be on the field with Jason Witten, it's James Hanna in my book and I haven't even given that a second thought. Hanna will be a very productive player for this squad whenever he is called on to do so.