Super Mario: Can Manningham Be Key for Giants Championship Run?

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Super Mario: Can Manningham Be Key for Giants Championship Run?
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Less than a month ago, Eli Manning said something interesting with regard to the current Giants personnel at the wide receiver position. When asked about what could happen to the deep ball if “The Athlete Formally Known as Plaxico” does not return, Eli answered “I think we’re hoping Mario Manningham can do that for us and be one of those guys who has speed and can run and make those deep catches.”

At first I laughed to myself after reading these comments, as I usually do when I imagine how the quote would sound coming out of Eli’s mouth (everyone knows what I’m talking about), but the more I though about it, the more I decided I should do some research on Mr. Manningham. Especially now that we know that Plax will no longer be with us.

What I found was very interesting. For one, the coaching staff seems to really like Manningham. Moreover, as any college football fan (especially all you Notre Dame sympathizers) might remember, Super Mario was electrifying in college. What stands out in these clips—even though we must remember it is a “highlight” package—is how much separation Manningham created on the downfield routes as well as the frequency Michigan utilized him in the short passing game.

Besides showcasing his open field elusiveness, these highlights also were a shining example of the kind of QB Chad Henne could be in the NFL (Jets fans beware). Even though I can’t resist taking an easy shot at the J-E-T-S, especially since they just lost out on Jay Cutler and their current QB competition, we’ll call it, is between Kellen Clemens and Brett Ratliff, I digress.

After looking at all of the Manningham college content, I stumbled across some rather exciting Ohio State high school football footage of Manningham. Again, while it does seem logical that he would be a man among boys against high school competition, Manningham still shows the same talent and elusiveness he showed at Michigan.

Furthermore, against the Super Bowl Champion Steelers (who the Giants beat at Heinz Field last season, let’s not forget) Manningham, in one of his only games of the season, saw a pass come his way. Though the ball fell incomplete, the Giants were clearly setting up for a WR screen.

So after seeing Manningham’s skills in action and a getting a small taste of how the G-Men intend to use 82, he looks like a big play guy. Obviously, there were concerns about this guy if he dropped to the third round of last year’s draft, but last time I checked the numbers on the stopwatch don’t count for much between the sidelines.

Does any of this mean that Big Blue won’t take a receiver with one of their 10 picks in this month’s draft? No way. But with the Braylon Edwards rumors poised to pick up some momentum over the next few weeks, Manningham may become more attractive, both as a potential playmaker for the Giants in ’09 and as a potential bargaining chip who could be packaged with some picks as they try to deal for a fellow a Wolverine.

The facts remain, however, that if the Giants plan to keep playing home games in January, they will need to add some size to their receiving corps. With those one-of-a-kind swirling Giants stadium winds, the G’s need someone who can be a physical presence against smaller DB’s but who also possesses the speed and strength to shed tacklers and rack up some RAC (sorry) yardage on the shorter passes that Donovan McNabb proved were more effective than the deep against those prevailing gusts.

Hakeem Nicks and Kenny Britt seem to fit this mold, and both seem like they would complement what the Giants already have.

Steve Smith appears ready to step into the role he was drafted for as Amani Toomer’s replacement. He is a great possession receiver and has a nice rapport with Eli Manning, in whom the latter appears to have an unwavering confidence. Smith is tough and is excellent on third down.

Domenik Hixon has shown a lot of potential, but he remains a question mark and can’t be counted on to be a No. 1 in this league. Sinorice Moss has been effective when he’s been on the field, but hasn’t had many opportunities since the team traded up to draft him at 44 in ’06.

One guy with whom Giants junkies are sure to be familiar is 6’6” Micah Rucker. Rucker was an undrafted rookie out of E. Illinois who didn’t stick with either the Steelers or the Chiefs, but the Giants snapped him up later on in the season. Only 24, Rucker is a compelling talent but is more than likely that he is long way away from seeing the field.

Although it is clear that the Giants do need to add some more talent at receiver after Plax’s departure, it is also clear that there is the potential for some major developments on this front as the draft looms near.

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