For my third instillation of the offense I will talk about the receivers.
Negative: Needs to add at least 10 pounds of muscles to his 6’2 184 pound frame. If he can do this he will have an easier time getting off the bump and run quicker then he has before. He has to also make sure he has good technique as well. Drop some big passes against the Eagles and Cowboys. Hixon seems to have trouble tracking the ball when in the air. He hasn’t played a full season as a started. If he wins the starting job, it would be interesting to see how he does over 16 games.
Positive: Has great speed, quickness, and acceleration. Hixon is a hard working, who knows that he needs to continue to get better to contribute. Domenik is an underrated route runner who if he continues to progress over the summer will bring something that Burress did not bring much of when he played for the Giants. Brings certain toughness to the wide receiving core from special teams and fights for extra yardage. Even though Hixon needs to continue to work harder in this area, he seems to have an understanding of finding holes in zone coverage. Hixon catches the ball, breaks tackles, find holes in coverage, and fights for extra yards. He really show cased this in the Cardinals game.
He also progressed as the year went on, despite an ankle injury that limited his practice reps at the end of the season. Hixon after two rough games against the Eagle and Cowboys (even though in the Cowboys game he recorded 6 catches for 60 yards) started having a big play in every game after that, here are some examples:
1. D. Carr passes deep right to D. Hixon for 23 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
2. E. Manning passes deep right to D. Hixon to PHI 30 for 34 yards
3. Hixon also had a 40 yard catch in double coverage and a 2-point conversion in the Panthers game as well.
Negative: On the rare occasion when given the opportunity to catch the ball deep tends to drop the ball (in his defense every time he’s about to catch a deep pass, there is a safety right there ready to put a big hit on him.) Smith doesn’t have much experience at the split end or flanker positions. Has started very few games so it will be interesting how he does over a full season if he earns the starting job. Needs to work on releases of the line when dealing with bump & run coverage at flanker or split end. Needs to hold on to the ball better, improve run blocking, and continue to get better in the YAC department.
Positive: Fast, quick, and good acceleration. Has a really good ability at finding holes in defenses and being where Eli needs him to be. Smith is a great route runner which is why it puts the coaching staff in a hard situation, in terms of playing him in the slot or wide on 3 wide receiver sets. Can catch the ball in traffic and make clutch spectacular catches. Has create bigger plays like the one in Pittsburgh where he went for 24 yards and if he continues to progress will be a major factor in the passing game in ’09.
Negative: Very small size that can make it hard to get him the ball in certain defenses. It is said that the reason that Moss hasn’t gotten more time is because of the receivers in front of him and that he doesn’t run great routes. Seems to not be that elusive for a player his size and with his speed. He hasn’t been able to contribute on special teams either. It’s hard to find a role for this player because he’s not big and strong, but he’s not elusive and lacks the ability to slip out of tackles, unlike the Panther’s Steve Smith and his brother Santana Moss.
Positive: For the limited time he has played every ball thrown to him he has caught. In games where he gets significant time he has come up with big plays with a pair of touchdowns. Some examples are:
1. A. Wright passes deep right to S. Moss to DET 30 for 46 yards
2. E. Manning passes deep middle to S. Moss for 23 yards
3. D. Carr pass deep middle to S. Moss to MIN 8 for 27 yards
Negative: Not much is known about this player because of injuries that occurred during training camp which really hurt him in terms of getting onto the field. I also believe that the drop pass he had in the Steelers game on a screen pass didn’t help either. Tom Coughlin doesn’t like drop passes nor fumbles. Mario didn’t show good I.Q. on his test at the combine. I don’t understand what questions they ask on the test and there are different types of intelligent so I don’t know what type of personality he has. Mario needs to stay healthy during the summer to find time on the team.
Positive: Even though he didn’t run well at the combine, the Giants keep talking about him like he’s one of the fastest players for the Giants so I guess I will take the Giants word for it. Hasn’t gotten many balls thrown to him, but he did make an amazing one hand tip catch to him self in traffic in a pre-season game against the Patriots. What that shows me is that he can stay focus on the catch with activity happening around him. I’ve only seen this once so I could be wrong.
Hakeem Nicks & Ramses Barden
People have been salivating over these two picks and how they’re going to replace Burress and safe the offense. Frankly I’m not crazy about these two picks because they are both rookies and there is a lot to for them to learn. If anybody knows the Giants and Tom Coughlin, they DON'T start rookies. Eli Manning didn't start even after they release Kerry Collins, and neither did Kenny Phillips start over Michael Johnson who is a 7th round pick. The Giants hope that the rookie receivers get up to speed for the sake of competition. These Rookies have a lot to learn. I terms of Nicks he’s big, good hands, and comes from a “pro-style” offense and has Aquan Boldin speed. Well that’s good but it brings (other then the fact that he’s big) nothing new to the offense. Hixon, Smith, Moss, and Manningham all have speed; all seem to have good hands, are all progressing and have experience under a pro-style offense in the NFL. There are many questions left for both receivers and they go as follow:
Learning the Giants play book and language?
Adapting to the speed of the NFL?
Dealing with bump and run coverage, especially Barden with his “Sudan, high center of gravity” size?
Reading complex zone defenses?
16 game schedule, maybe 18 depending on what the NFL does?
Dealing with the battles and rivalries in the NFC east?
Dealing with Giant stadium winds and the New York media market?
Hixon and Smith will be the starters. Hixon lead all Giant receivers with 596 yards with only 7 starts. Let’s also remember that when the season started he was 4th on the depth chart. Let’s also not disrespect the defenses in the final stretch that Hixon went up against when Plaxico Burress went down. He faced the Redskins (Rogers & Hall), Philadelphia Eagles (Samuel & Brown), Dallas Cowboys (Newman & Henry), Panthers (Gamble & Lucas), and Vikings (Winfield & Griffin), in which every defense was ranked no lower then 8th with the exception for the Panthers who finished 18th. Hixon also was dealing with ankle injury which actually at one point made him miss an entire week before playing the Vikings.
Steve Smith led all receivers with 57 catches and second with 574 yards. I believe that Steve Smith is going to have a break out year because he doesn’t have to wait behind Toomer anymore and will finally be able to play on the outside for the foreseeable future. Steve Smith will finally be able to show case his speed and route running on the outside and prove that he’s not just a possession receiver. I actually see him breaking at least Amani Toomer’s team receiving record of 82 catches. If Smith can catch 57 balls with only 4 starts (which I believe the Giants open up with their first series with 3 set wide outs) then he can definitely catch 82 balls + with 16 starts over a season. I do also see Smith being move to the slot in multiply wide receiver sets because of the simply fact that he’s the best receiver on the roster who can be trusted on to move the chains. Also keep an eye out for Ahmad Bradshaw and the screen game. He is a very quick running back that doesn't need a lot of room to gain 5 yards or more on a play. Remember eventhough he's small, Bradshaw can be really hard to bring down.
I’m really not sure who’s going to be the 3rd, 4th, and 5th receivers on the depth chart, but with the start of OTAs today this question should start be answered. As long as there is competition and players earn the right to play, I believe this Giant receiving group will be the best ever in Giants history. Let's remember that also Marvin Harrison, Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward are not big receivers and all have at least one super bowl. Marvin and Hines have made for themselves stellar careers and Santonio seems to be a rising star.