In 2010, the wide receiver position for the New York Giants was hit hard by injury. Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith, Ramses Barden, and Domenik Hixon all finished the season on injured reserve.
This forced a number of fairly unknown players such as Derek Hagan and Devin Thomas into action.
Victor Cruz and others take a break during “Camp Eli”
At the outset of 2011, the Giants will begin the season with Steve Smith and Ramses Barden on the physically unable to perform list (if they retain Steve Smith). This leaves the door open for rookie draftee Jerrel Jernigan and second-year player Victor Cruz to contribute early and often.
Unless Domenik Hixon, who is coming off of knee surgery himself, beats out one of the two players, Jernigan and Cruz will battle for the number three receiver spot on opening day.
Cruz is a player who is most famous for his three touchdown performance last preseason against the New York Jets, which included an incredible one-handed catch with a defender draped on his back. Unfortunately, Cruz ended up among the walking wounded and was placed on injured reserve just before an October game against the Detroit Lions. He never once got an opportunity to show off his skills on offense all season.
That could change this year, as he is one of the better bets to be in the top three receivers. Cruz has the perfect frame for a slot receiver, and has proven that he has the ability to get down the field as well as catch the ball very well. He is currently my bet to win the slot receiver job.
Jerrel Jernigan on the other hand is a very talented rookie receiver out of Troy. During his tenure at Troy, Jernigan set school and conference records for receptions, yards, and all purpose yards. In 2010 alone he had 84 receptions for 822 yards and six touchdowns, to go along with a touchdown on a punt return and a kick return.
His prowess at racking up all purpose yardage is a testament to his versatility, which will come in very handy for the Giants. Though Jernigan is not as big as Cruz (6’1″ vs 5’9″), he is quicker and has shown great ability to work through traffic.
The one handicap that Jernigan may have is his knowledge of the system, which may not be as drastic as some may think considering he did work with Eli Manning on a number of occasions this offseason.
Regardless of which one ultimately gets the slot receiver job, both will have to contribute early and often.