Instead, Barden has topped off his best camp ever with his best preseason ever and now his best NFL game ever.
Barden, filling in for the ailing Hakeem Nicks, hauled in nine catches for 138 yards in the Giants 36-7 thrashing of Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America stadium.
Barden always had all the tools to be a great NFL receiver.
A star at Cal Poly, he put up huge numbers to match his 6'6" frame: 206 receptions, 4,203 yards, and 50 touchdowns.
And he averaged 20.4 yards per catch. Take that, Victor Cruz.
Impressive? As a junior he averaged 25.7 yards per catch.
Those are the kind of numbers that kept Barden on the Giants roster when his performance at the NFL level made it easy to forget he was once a premiere wideout.
Until this season, Barden had a mediocre 17 catches for 174 yards, at an 11.6 clip.
This year, on the heels of a breakout night, Barden has 10 catches for 172 yards, a 17 yard per clip.
Barden has had impressive camps before. He's had impressive preseasons before.
But, until this year. Hell, until Thursday night, he never delivered when it mattered most.
Even the four-year veteran is aware of his underwhelming career thus far.
“I've always practiced well at this time of year,” Barden told CBSSports.com during camp at SUNY in Albany, New York.
“That's not really what I'm concerned about ... I'm preparing for the season," he added, hinting that he knew what really mattered.
Last year, Barden began the season on PUP with an injured ankle.
This year, he came to camp healthy, aware that he was living on the bubble.
On Thursday, Barden reminded the Giants why they moved up to select him in the 2009 NFL draft with the 85th overall pick: They saw a receiver in the mold of Keyshawn Johnson: a big target, with physicality and game smarts.
As Giants receivers coach Sean Ryan told the Star-Ledger in August, “he’s a smart player and that gives you the ability to move him around. He can play all four (receiver) spots. He’s done a good job of staying attentive in meetings when he hasn’t played, so I expect him to mentally, off the bat, be in a good place.”
Barden surely is in that "good place" now. And, with no other receiver separating himself from the pack for No. 3, Barden is as close as ever to finding a place on the field in 2012.
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