If ever there was a team that did not need to be playing on a short week, it would be the New York Giants, who are going into Thursday night's showdown with the Carolina Panthers without four key offensive players.
The team has officially ruled out David Diehl, Ahmad Bradshaw, Hakeem Nicks and Domenik Hixon for this week's game, leaving them with huge holes to fill all over the place.
Fortunately, the Giants do have a solid insurance policy at wide receiver with rookie Rueben Randle, who had a lot of potential coming out of LSU and some baggage that pushed him to the bottom of the second round.
Randle's baggage is nothing that you don't hear from a lot of receivers. ESPN's Todd McShay spoke to reporters (via San Francisco Chronicle) in the months leading up to the draft that he thought "Randle quit and said Randle was telling everyone they should get him the ball."
However, the upside to a player like Randle is enormous, and the Giants obviously thought a lot of him, or else they wouldn't have taken him in the second round.
Mike Garafolo of the Newark Star-Ledger quoted Giants general manager Jerry Rees after the draft as saying that the Giants believe Randle's body and skill set compares favorably to that of Nicks.
“He plays big, he can post guys up. People mentioned Hakeem Nicks when we talked about him in our room,” the Giants’ general manager said. “He’s not blazing fast and I don’t think Hakeem is blazing fast either, but he’s game fast. And he’s bigger than Hakeem. Very good hands, ball skills. Talented, talented football player.”
Given how banged up the Giants are coming into this game, they need someone to step up. According to Jenny Vrentas of the Newark Star-Ledger, Randle might not start but should see plenty of action.
Randle does not have game-changing skills right now. He is a little slow, needs experience and time to adjust to the game, as well as focus on helping the team when he is not getting the ball.
But this is his first real chance to prove his worth to the Giants. Eli Manning is going to have to start spreading the ball around without one of his favorite targets, so there will be opportunities for Randle to make plays.
Through two games, Manning has completed 52 passes and 31 have gone to Nicks and Victor Cruz. Hixon is third among wide receivers on the team with four receptions, so someone like Randle, who doesn't have a catch this year, has to step up for the Giants to score.
The Panthers have the ability to put up a lot of points in a short amount of time, so the Giants will need all the offensive weapons they can get.
Randle's performance is going to be critical for the Giants to succeed tonight. Even if he doesn't dominate the game, he has to do something to make the Panthers take notice and at least respect his ability to make plays.
This is the biggest moment of Randle's life so far. He has to handle it like a player who can be instrumental on a championship team.