Just over a month ago, we were debating who the Giants’ third wide receiver should be. With Mario Manningham settling into the Bay Area, the Giants were left without a tertiary receiving option to compliment their dynamic starters, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.
All throughout training camp, rookie wide receiver Rueben Randle was the popular candidate for the job. Fans were intrigued by the prospect’s size (6’3”/210 pounds), and they believed that he could provide deep-play potential with his ability to stretch the field.
Veteran wideout Domenik Hixon ended up winning the third wide receiver job, most likely due to his superior experience, but plenty of New York receivers have had the opportunity to showcase their talent in light of recent injuries. Through four weeks, the Giants have had four different pass-catchers record 100 yards receiving in a single game. Randle has not been one of them.
The way Randle has slid down New York’s depth chart is eerily reminiscent of the way he fell to the end of the second round on draft day last April. Did every other team notice something that the Giants hadn’t?
So far, Randle has shown little to warrant even the late second-round pick that the Giants spent on him. Sure, it’s only his first year in the league and he will have plenty of time to improve, but Randle is a player that was originally in the running for an important role in the offense and has since been reduced to a bystander.
The frustrating part about Randle’s lack of production is that inexperience and inability do not seem to be the causative factors. Instead, some have suggested that it has been Randle’s work ethic and poor attitude that have gotten in the way of his playing time.
With Nicks out of the lineup in back-to-back weeks, Randle has had an opening to make a name for himself—he just hasn’t taken advantage of it. Instead, hungrier receivers like Hixon, who has missed consecutive seasons with ACL tears, and Ramses Barden, who desperately wants to avoid the bust label, were given preference over Randle.
Cruz, who has grown impatient with Randle’s slow progression as an NFL receiver, decided to voice his opinion on the subject. He told Paul Schwartz of the New York Post that it’s time for Randle to step up to the plate:
Rueben has to understand that this is a business now, it’s not just come out here, lollygag, because you may not be getting as much reps as somebody else, that you shouldn’t be giving as much effort. He has to understand that each and every day he walks in here he’s a professional and he has to perform no matter what’s being asked of him.
Randle wasn’t really a superstar in college—LSU’s offense was run-oriented and lacked big plays in the passing game—so if Cruz’s prima donna depiction of him is accurate, then it’s quite surprising. Regardless, it’s clear that Randle hasn’t earned the respect of his teammates quite yet, and one catch for four yards through the first four games probably hasn’t helped his case much either.
On the other hand, head coach Tom Coughlin has been supportive of Randle. According to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, Coughlin considers Randle a hard worker and called him “a young guy that wants to do well.”
There’s obviously some disparity between Cruz and Coughlin’s opinions of Randle, but one thing is clear: Randle isn’t doing enough on offense to make an impact on Sundays.
Historically, the Giants have taken their time developing rookies, but Randle has already shown signs of falling behind. Moving forward—especially beyond the 2012 season—New York will need Randle to develop into a big-time receiver. If Randle wants to begin moving in that direction, he can start by impressing his teammates with an unquestionable work ethic.