Giants vs. Panthers: 4 Players Who Must Step Up for Injury-Riddled Giants

Chris Trapasso@ChrisTrapassoAnalyst ISeptember 20, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 16:  Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants celebrates a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during a game at MetLife Stadium on September 16, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Another season, another game in which the New York Giants are forced to deal with a slew of injuries. 

What's the big deal? 

In recent memory, they've been in this situation more times than they would have liked, and Tom Coughlin's club has typically fought through the injuries, received admirable efforts from unheralded guys and have come out on top in these difficult matchups.

So, against the versatile and powerful Cam Newton this evening, which G-Men must step up with Dominek Hixon, Ahmad Bradshaw, David Diehl and Hakeem Nicks?


Andre Brown, RB 

THE trendiest pickup on the fantasy football waiver wire this week? That'd be Mr. Andre Brown, the guy who's jumped first-round pick David Wilson on the depth chart and will start in place of Bradshaw after a 13-carry, 71-yard, one-touchdown effort against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week. 

The young journeyman, who was drafted by the Giants in the fourth-round of the 2009 draft and has been on five teams in four years, is finally getting an opportunity as New York's feature back. 

At 6'0'' and 224 pounds, he has ideal size to become a bruising, between-the-tackles runner. 

The Giants typically feature the passing game, but without Nicks, it'll be interesting to see if they look to slow down the tempo on offense with a heavy dosage of Brown. 

To keep Newton off the field, Brown must have another inspired performance.


Victor Cruz, WR

Cruz leads the NFL in receiving yardage (tied with Nicks at 237) and targets (28). He could see even more footballs being thrown his way with his receiving mate out of the lineup against the Panthers, but Nicks' absence will likely mean Carolina will keep a safety over the top on his side regardless of where he's aligned pre-snap. 

Whenever you take away a piece of a productive receiving tandem, it's intriguing to monitor how the remaining wideout plays without his complement on the field.

Last year, Nicks missed the game against the New England Patriots in early November. Cruz caught six passes for 91 yards en route to an impressive road victory.

The salsa-dancing receiver will face underrated cornerback Chris Gamble for most of the evening, a matchup certainly worth watching.  


Rueben Randle, WR

The vast majority of the NFL draft experts applauded the Giants' decision to take LSU receiver Rueben Randle in the second round in this year's draft. 

He was to be the third talented receiver for Eli Manning in New York's explosive vertical passing offense.

Thus far, he's yet to catch a pass and has rarely seen the field. 

With Nicks and Hixon out, the rookie should see a huge spike in playing time and targets. He was behind Hixon as the team's No. 3 WR, so Randle should find himself in Hixon's spots for most of the game. 

The Panthers will be zoned in on Cruz, so someone has to step up in the receiving corps.


Will Beatty, LT

Every quarterback has to be adequately protected to have a chance to be successful. It doesn't matter if it's Tom Brady or Kevin Kolb. Eli falls somewhere in between those two—obviously closer to Brady—and will be throwing the football behind a reshuffled offensive line tonight. 

With Diehl out, Beatty will man the critical left tackle position, and veteran Sean Locklear will take over the right tackle duties. 

Beatty has talent and started as Manning's blindside protector in 10 games last year. 

So he's not a reserve in the traditional sense and could actually be the best option at left tackle for New York. 

He'll deal with the often overlooked Charles Johnson for the most of the evening.