With wide receiver Victor Cruz now out for the remainder of the season following knee surgery, the New York Giants will be forced to look elsewhere for production out of the slot position. Insert third-year wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan, whom offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride says is the next man up.
"He’ll definitely be the guy," Gilbride said on Thursday. "He’s the one that most closely embodies the qualities you’re looking for in the slot position, the quickness, the toughness, and you just hope the things that come up each and every game – it’s a little different; he hasn’t been through them as much as Victor — but that he’ll react and respond to the different coverage disguises in there."
Drafted in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Jernigan's short Giants tenure has been anything but spectacular. Despite high hopes and tons of potential, the former Troy Trojan has done little to impress while dealing with a multitude of early career injuries.
In his three seasons with the Giants, Jernigan has played primarily on special teams, serving intermittently as a kick returner. On the offensive side of the ball, Jernigan has played in only 21 games (30 overall), hauling in 20 receptions for 181 yards (9.1 ypc) and no touchdowns. His best game came a week ago against the Seattle Seahawks when he took over for the injured Cruz, catching seven passes for 67 yards.
"I thought he came in and did a terrific job for not really having a lot of opportunities to play as much as he did," Gilbride added. "After Victor got hurt he came in and showed the quickness that we always knew he had and I thought he made great decisions in the zone coverages. He obviously can run after the catch, which we tried to exploit and take advantage of."
With only two weeks remaining, this is about as good a position as Jernigan will likely find himself in. He has two games to prove to the Giants (and if not the Giants, 31 other teams) that he's capable of producing on the field and is worthy of an additional investment.
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