Jim Mancari, ContributorComing into this season, it seemed on paper that the Giants’ main strength was the receiving corps.
Victor Cruz had finally signed his contract; Hakeem Nicks appeared to be healthy; and Rueben Randle was ready to build on a few good games from last year.
However, through eight games, the receiving corps – except for Cruz – has been very inconsistent.
“I don’t think it’s a lack of effort; I don’t think it’s a lack of desire; but it is inconsistent and needs to improve,” said wide receivers coach Kevin M. Gilbride.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: What’s been going on with Nicks?
Things looked so bad for him that he was recently mentioned as a potential trade candidate before the deadline passed earlier this week. Granted, some of that is contract related, but his inconsistent performance allowed the Giants to ponder whether or not he’s expendable.
Gilbride said that Nicks is working hard to get his body back in shape after the groin injury from the offseason and even the dislocated finger from earlier this season. He said Nicks has had some trouble getting his body into positions where it is normally used to.
“It’s very close to him hopefully erupting and helping our team and being able to make those huge plays,” Gilbride said. “How would I assess him? I think he’s getting himself back to where he needs to be, but the opportunities have been there to make the plays and I think moving forward he’s going to make them.”
There have been a few drops, but what’s even more troubling is the lack of effort that Nicks seems to display at times in running his routes. But again, that could be related to his physical condition that Gilbride alluded to.
“I think when a guy as competitive as he (Nicks) is isn’t making the plays that he feels that he should be making that it’s frustrating,” Gilbride said. “I don’t think it’s going to affect him moving on. In fact, I think it drives him to make sure he makes the play the next time.”
The pillar of consistency for the Giants’ receiving corps has been Cruz. He’s fourth in the NFL with 677 receiving yards, only behind three of the best in the game: Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green and Demaryius Thomas.
He’s certainly living up to his new contract, and he simply must keep doing what he’s doing.
“He (Cruz) has been tremendous, and I’m not just talking about the passing game,” Gilbride said. “In the running game, he is blocking his butt off and coming down and blocking safeties to the point where he never used to do these things last season for me, although I would push him and push him and push him towards it. Now he’s been very competitive and tough getting his nose dirty in there, and it’s helped our team.”
As for Randle, he seems to be taking two steps forward and then one step backwards. It’s no secret that a few of Eli Manning’s interceptions have been directly related to miscommunications with Randle.
Then again, there have been times when Randle has made a clutch catch in traffic and saved Eli of another interception.
Randle right now needs to just keep improving, especially with Nicks’ inconsistency. Manning will need more than just Cruz to establish an effective passing attack, and Randle can be that guy.
Louis Murphy and Jerrel Jernigan have had limited playing time, but we may see more of them as the season progresses.
Cruz right now would be an “A” player, but unfortunately, the unit is graded as a whole. Nicks’ and Randle’s inconsistencies therefore amount for the bulk of the grade.
But luckily, there’s always room for improvement, and a consistent receiving corps can be exactly what Manning needs to continue the team’s winning streak – albeit two games.
Up next: Tight Ends