New York Giants' No. 3 Receiver Battle: Now I'm Really Confused

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistAugust 25, 2012

August 24, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants tight end Martellus Bennett (85) and wide receiver Ramses Barden (13) and center David Bass (64) celebrate Barden's touchdown during the second quarter of a preseason NFL game against the Chicago Bears at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

I thought I had a relatively firm grip on the New York Giants' wide receiver situation. Rookie Rueben Randle was the long-term favorite to win reps in the No. 3 spot, while veteran Domenik Hixon had a short-term edge. Jerrel Jernigan was part of the conversation, and Ramses Barden was probably going to be a casualty. 

Everything changed Friday night.

Barden, who struggled earlier in the preseason and had a big drop against the the Jets, stepped up with a superb performance. The 2009 third-round pick caught three passes for 46 yards and had a touchdown in the first quarter. He also drew a pass interference flag in the end zone.

In doing so, the three-year veteran might have saved his job. 

The key for Barden was that he was at his best with Eli Manning and the rest of the first-team offense. All three of his receptions came on Eli throws.

Randle caught two passes from Manning, and Hixon had one. Hixon has just two catches this preseason, but remains in the No. 3 spot on the depth chart. With Hakeem Nicks still shy of 100 percent, that's a particularly important position to hold.

The team has to be concerned about Hixon, who tore his ACL each of the last two seasons, and there's also some uncertainty surrounding Randle. In addition, the Giants aren't a team known for giving too many responsibilities to rookies out of the gates. 

With those factors in mind, Barden could be one more solid preseason outing away from earning key reps against the Cowboys in the season opener. 

And then there's Jernigan, who made some big plays earlier in the preseason but disappeared against Chicago

Where does that leave the Giants' depth chart at wide receiver? The team surely hoped that someone would emerge as a clear favorite to win the No. 3 job, but at least there's no shortage of quality candidates. 

The Giants won the Super Bowl last year because of their pass rush and their explosive passing game. Here we are now, 11 days from the start of the 2012 season, and there are question marks all over an offense that was spectacular down the stretch in 2011.

David Wilson is officially pushing Ahmad Bradshaw, and a quartet of inconsistent yet capable receivers are fighting to replace Mario Manningham. We still don't know who the left tackle will be, but suddenly Sean Locklear is looking like a viable option after another strong performance Friday night.

It's a good to have a lot of options, but the Giants have a lot of decisions to make in a small amount of time.