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New York Giants Wide Receivers: Looking at Bright Side of Hakeem Nicks’ Injury

May 28th, 2012 at 1:56 PM
By Paul Tierney

The New York Giants wide receivers suffered a tremendous loss on Thursday when Hakeem Nicks fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot. After last offseason and the flurry of devastating injuries that plagued several key players such as Jonathon Goff, Prince Amukamara and Osi Umenyoira, one can not help but to get nervous that a repeat could be in store this offseason.

'Eli Manning Warms Up with Hakeem Nicks' photo (c) 2011, Rajiv Patel (Rajiv's View) - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Obviously, nobody wants to see such a great talent like Nicks get hurt; however, his absence will give other members of the Giants' young receiving core an opportunity to get more reps in practice and more experience in preseason games. Let's take a look at who the Giants will turn to while Nicks is rehabbing his foot, and we will also examine how they can benefit from the increased exposure they will receive. 

Victor Cruz - Cruz shocked the world last year when he came from nowhere to break Amani Toomer's franchise receiving record; however, he benefited immensely from the attention defense's had to pay to Hakeem Nicks and even Mario Manningham. With Manningham gone and Nicks injured, Cruz will see increased attention from defenses in both practice and early preseason games. Furthermore, Cruz saw most of his success last season while playing in the slot. The injury to Nicks will force the Giants to explore playing Cruz on the outside, which could increase his versatility throughout the season.

Rueben RandleThe rookie 2nd round pick out of LSU has received rave reviews from the New York Giants coaching staff, and could be the greatest beneficiary of Hakeem Nicks' absence. Without Nicks in the lineup, Randle will be taking first team reps throughout training camp. Increased first team reps can be invaluable experience for a rookie, and will also help him build chemistry with quarterback Eli Manning.

Domenik HixonHixon is coming of two seasons of back-to-back ACL tears; however, he is healthy again and hopefully able to contribute to the team. If Hixon still possesses that break away speed that we have seen from him in the past, he could be a natural replacement for Mario Manningham, who was always a deep threat down the field. Without Nicks for at least the beginning of training camp, Hixon will have increased opportunities to showcase his ability.

Ramses BardenBarden can be viewed as a poor man's Plaxico Burress. He does not possess tremendous speed or elite catching ability, but he stands 6'6 and weighs 224lbs. Barden is a physical player that is capable of taking advantage of smaller defenders. This year is a make or break year for Barden, the 4th year player out of Cal Poly, who has been plagued by injury throughout his career. With Nicks out of commission for an extended period of time, this could be Barden's last opportunity to prove his critics wrong.

Jerrel JerniganThe second year 3rd round pick out of Troy saw very few opportunities to showcase his abilities last year. Although Tom Coughlan and Jerry Reese talked about Jernigan as a potential option at the 3rd receiver earlier in the preseason, they went ahead and drafted Rueben Randle anyway. Look for Jernigan to come into training camp with a chip on his shoulder and take advantage of whatever opportunities he is given.

Although Hakeem Nicks' initial prognosis called for a 12 week recovery, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that he could be back to full strength within 4-6 weeks. Schefter's report could be optimistic because the Giants surely will not rush such a key asset like Hakeem Nicks back on the field before he is one hundred percent healthy, and it is likely that he will miss at least a portion of training camp.

Immediately after Nicks went down, speculation arose that the Giants could look to free agency to add depth, and Plaxico Burress' name was even floated out there. It would be uncharacteristic of General Manger Jerry Reese to make a flashy signing at this point of the offseason. Therefore, it is more likely the Giants will look within their current receiving to core step up until Nicks recovers fully.

The increased reps that are going to be given to the younger receivers such as Randle, Jernigan, and Barden could enable one of them to have a breakout year similar to that of Victor Cruz last year.When Nicks returns, he will be coming back to a receiving core that will be more NFL ready than it otherwise would have been. Look for the New York Giants receivers to continue to be extremely dangerous in 2012.

Also…

Tags: Domenik Hixon, Football, Hakeem Nicks, Jerrel Jernigan, Mario Manningham, New York, New York Giants, NFL, Ramses Barden, Rueben Randle, Victor Cruz

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16 Responses to “New York Giants Wide Receivers: Looking at Bright Side of Hakeem Nicks’ Injury”

  1.  GmenMania says:

    Great piece. This is the dreaded BID aspect of Nicks’ injury.

  2.  COUNT_ON_IT says:

    I appreciate the try but there is bright spot in regards to this. Nicks is a budding superstar and feet injuries are notoriously tricky and lingering. Look at Amukamara and Bradshaw. Prince was hampered by it even when he came back and still isn’t 100%. And Bradshaw’s career has and will continued to be hampered by his feet. I am not dooming Nicks to a career of broken feet but with this injury it is certainly possible and more susceptible to lingering issues than others.

  3.  NYGmfehrs says:

    i think it will be Barden’s best season. you cant teach 6-4 and i feel that he’s going to be very similar to plaxico in terms of a red-zone threat

    •  Samardzija says:

      You can however teach slow…

    •  Chad Eldred says:

      If he catches 10 passes or even a single touchdown, you would technically be right in predicting Barden having his best season. Nicks had better be back, the thought of the receiving corps having to rely on Barden performing is ridiculously frightening. Since he averages about six games per season, the odds of Barden being healthy are slim, the odds of him being healthy and competent are astronomically poor. The guy is a joke.

  4.  Samardzija says:

    You should have included “blessing in disguise ” somewhere lol… Lets not kid are self though, the only bright side is that it could have been worse and it could have happened at a worse time. thats pretty much it.

  5.  norm says:

    Nice piece, Paul… and welcome aboard.

  6.  fanfor55years says:

    Forget Barden. It’s all about Hixon and Jernigan and Randle. I could see DePalma having a bigger impact this season than will Barden.

    There doesn’t appear to be an easy game on the schedule, so we need Nicks back for the Dallas game or are probably going to settle for a .500 start until Hakeem is back and at full strength. But it sounds now like he’s likely to be back by Week 5 if not sooner. In Nicks’ absence I figure we’d go with Cruz and Hixon outside and Jernigan in the slot, with Randle getting some snaps in the outside position and Cruz shifting into the slot (or staying outside with Hixon off the field and Jernigan remaining the slot guy when we have one). Randle may be playing with the 3′s now but that won’t last long. He should have no trouble knocking Barden down the depth chart as soon as he picks up the rudiments of the offense.

    I do think that we may be pleasantly surprised by both Jernigan and Hixon. The latter was a very sound #3 receiver who showed signs he could handle being the #2 guy, and he knows everything about the offense. The former was largely buried his rookie season but he is a playmaker and has the stuff it takes to make plays in the NFL. I like this kid’s upside.

    •  Cazart says:

      I hope you’re right about a lot of that…but I beg to differ. I think Randle plugs right in to Ham’s spot and lights it up. I also think/hope Barden does something. Jernigan is a mystery. Unfortunately…I think time’s up for Hixon. TWO ACL’s? That’s a lot to overcome.

      …but I could be wrong.

  7.  fanfor55years says:

    Also, welcome Paul and the new posters. Keep ‘em coming.

  8.  BigBlueScorpion says:

    Barden is a joke i could play better then him lol smh i dont even think he could run a 4.9

  9.  Nosh.0 says:

    Barden = Worthless unless the NFL decided to add engineering puzzles to the game that awarded points.

    Jurnigan = Seems to have a physical skill set like Mario. Will he use it, who knows. Some WR’s are just soft. Still waiting to make a judgement on him.

    Hixon = Proven reliable depth. Ideally he’s your number 3 or 4 but is capable of starting a few games here and there if a starter goes down.

    Randle = Although my initial reaction 5 minutes after we took him was that he sucked, I’ve since found better highlights. Dude is physical. Hopefully he learns the playbook quick, I could see him on the field week 1.

    # 17 = Not happening but a guy can dream.

    I’d welcome the new guy but he will probably be gone in a week. This place goes through writers like Angel Lugo goes through prisons.

    Also Swag Hosley is gonna be a beast. Best secondary in the NFL for 2012.

    P.S. I have a sneaking suspicion that Prince Jumangi is g@y. Not saying the dude can’t ball but I think he goes the other way. My advice to him would be to not come out until after he’s done playing.

    Happy Memorial day. 90 degrees, sunny, hot, and humid. Nosh.0?s kind of weather!

  10.  stuh says:

    There is nothing good about Nicks’s injury, including the other guys getting a chance. They would have had their chance in the pre-season anyway. You don’t loose a #1 receiver and say goody now the other guys will have a chance.
    I thought that when Barden was drafted they had him listed at 6″6′. I guess I was wrong. He still hasn’t shown anything. Plaxico is done.

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