There is nothing fancy about the undrafted tight end from Grambling, except he catches ball and he knows how to get to the end zone.
Donnell came out of nowhere last season and caught 63 passes for 623 yards and six touchdowns in his first season as a starter. The reception total was third on the team and the touchdowns only trailed Beckham's 12.
Everyone remembers Donnell's three TD catches in a nationally televised game against the Redskins in September. It earned him a trip to the media room for his first major post-game press conference, and he seemed to enjoy it.
There were also lowlights, too, fumbles against Dallas and Jacksonville later that cost the Giants' games in a 6-10 season.
''I will always be positive,'' Donnell said Thursday. ''That's the only way to go in life, stay positive. It's simple mathematics. If you want to ball, hold on to it. That sums it up. If the ball is in my hands, I want the ball to stay in my hands. Last year I cost the team a couple of losses that we should not have had and that hurt me. So I am going to make up for that and hold on to the ball.''
The 6-foot-6 Donnell, who had three receptions in 2013, has worked on a lot of things since last season ended. He is holding the ball `high and tight' to prevent fumbles, and position coach Kevin Gilbride Jr. thinks his blocking has improved.
''I think he can be a pretty special player, but there's a lot of improving that is going to have to take place in order for him to be that special player,'' Gilbride said. ''The good thing is, he's working toward it, and he's starting to understand that he could be a pretty special guy as well.''
Donnell also has to learn to deal with the wear and tear of the NFL season. He started quickly last season but had only two touchdowns in the final 12 games as a knee injury seemed to slow him down. The 265-pounder has been bothered by an Achilles tendon in the offseason and training camp and he is only starting to find his stride.
In Thursday's practice, he caught a pass over the middle and then beat safety Cooper Taylor on a deep sideline route, catching both throws from Manning.
It's a start of what Donnell hopes can be another big season.
''I set goals since I was (little), that's what you do playing backyard football,'' Donnell said. ''For me it was never: `Take this.' It was always come through the back door to get out the front. But that feels good to me, that's all I know.''
Donnell is reticent when asked whether he has the ability to be one of the league's top tight ends.
''That's harder work,'' he said. ''To know they believe in you feels good but I still have to put the work in to keep my head on and keep moving and keep pushing. That's all I know and what I am going to continue to do.''
''We try to create matchups and we like our tight ends,'' Manning said. ''There are some staples when they're our first reads on a lot of plays. But we're always looking for our matchups. Tight ends can play a big part in the open field and also the red zone and make a lot of plays for us.''
NOTES: The Giants offense line practiced without G Geoff Schwartz (ankle), C Weston Richburg (knee tendinitis) and LT Ereck Flowers (hip). LB Jameel McClain (stringer) is going to be sidelined an undisclosed about of time because of a stinger in his neck. He has had previous neck problems and the Giants plans to be cautious, coach Tom Coughlin said. S Nat Berhe has a muscle tear in his calf and CB Prince Amukamara was out with a groin injury. ...Manning threw his first interception of training camp, being picked by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. ..The defense had to do pushups after the practice because veteran Josh Brown made his two field goals and first-year kicker Chris Boswell missed his second. Coughlin has had competitive, team-bonding drills after almost each workout.
AP NFL website: -www.pro32.ap.org and -www.twitter.com/AP-NFL