Giant Concern: Does Wide Receiver Still Qualify as One in New York?

Matthew ValentineContributor IMay 7, 2009

Was the Giants off-season a productive one? Did they do enough to fill their glaring needs or will they be exposed? Let's examine.

First things first, let’s deal with the 800 lb. gorilla in the room. The loss of Plaxico Burress to a self inflicted gunshot wound (insert obligatory eye roll) may have cost the Giants a shot at defending their Super Bowl title, and with Burress’ subsequent release in the off-season, along with that of veteran receiver Amani Toomer, the Giants were left with some glaring holes to fill.


Need 1: Fill the Wide Receiver Holes

Many thought that Giants GM Jerry Reese would address this need by trading for a proven wide receiver commodity, such as Braylon Edwards of the Cleveland Browns, or Anquan Boldin of the Arizona Cardinals. Alas, draft day came and went and no such trade was made. Instead, the Giants philosophy seems to have been that if you can’t fill the hole with one man, fill it with three.

In accordance with that philosophy the G-Men used three of their first four selections in the draft to bring in some new weapons for Eli Manning and the Giants passing attack. WR Hakeem Nicks, WR Ramses Barden, and TE Travis Beckum are all the heir apparent to the Plaxico Burress throne.

Nicks, the Giants first round selection, is said by many “experts” to be the most NFL ready receiver in the draft. He runs clean routes, has hands like fly paper and can even make the spectacular behind the back grab if need be.

Beckum is a match-up nightmare, with enough speed to stretch the field and enough size to be a terrific red zone target. Barden is the most interesting of the bunch. He dominated the inferior competition at Cal-Poly breaking numerous Div-1AA receiving records, and at 6’6", 227 lbs. is an ideal size replacement for Plax. At least, that’s what the Giants want their fans to believe.

Nicks may in fact be the most NFL ready receiver in the draft, but if history is any indicator rookie receivers just do not perform well. Add to that the fact that many say that Nicks will never be more than a good No. 2 receiver and the Giants are still left without a top tier No. 1 target.

Beckum may actually end up being the most productive of the bunch. He was extremely productive in college until an injury sidelined him for seven games his senior year. And while he is not your classic TE he should be employed more like a Dallas Clark, as a slot receiver or H-back. The only glaring issue with Beckum is his durability, but even if he is able to stay healthy and on the field he still can’t replace Burress’ production.

Barden, simply put, is raw and while he did dominate the inferior competition of the FCS, it was just that, inferior competition. Barden may one day develop into a top tier No. 1 receiver, but it certainly won’t be this year.


Need 2: Add Depth on Defense

On the other side of the ball the Giants not only filled their most glaring needs , but also upgraded one of their greatest strengths. The additions of free agents Michael Boley, Bertrand Berry, and Chris Canty, not only filled some holes on the Giants roster, but also added some depth and talent to an already formidable pass rush.

Boley should immediately take over the WLB duties for the G-Men a position that was exposed at times last season especially in coverage.  The additions of Berry and Canty provide so much depth along the defensive line that no team should be able to match the ferocity of the Giants' pass rush.

Second round pick Clint Sintim is another pass rushing weapon the Giants can employ at their will, and while Sintim struggles in coverage the G-Men can afford to use him only on passing downs. Don’t forget that the Giants made a huge off-season move without having to make a move by getting All-Pro defensive end Osi Umenyiora back from injury.


Need 3: Replace Derrick Ward

The only other hole the Giants needed to fill was the one left by the departure of Derrick Ward. They have the talent to do that with Jacobs, Bradshaw, Ware, and now Andre Brown, who many consider to be a draft day steal.

If Jacobs stays healthy, and if Bradshaw can continue to flash the talent he's demonstarted in limited touches the Giants' running game will be a force once again. Andre Brown may be the man the Giants are looking at to fill that third down running back role, because he has great hands coming out of the backfield much like D-Ward.


The Verdict

If the Giants do have a weakness it is still the void left by the departures of Burress and Toomer. And unless some of the Giants' current wide receivers like Steve Smith or Domenik Hixon really elevate their game to a whole new level, the G-Men are still left without a true No. 1 receiver. Relying on production from rookie wide receivers could end up being the Giants' Achille's heel.