It's been said over and over again: rookie WRs hardly ever perform well in their first year on the job. Certainly that fact based argument seems to be a harbinger of bad news for Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden, but what about the other side of that coin?
Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith in 2008 completed what would amount to their rookie seasons as full time starters. If rookies hardly every contribute, it stands to reason that in year two those players would make a considerable leap and start to turn into the players they will be. This leap could be what jump starts the Giants passing attack which became stagnant following Plaxico Burress shooting himself.
GM Jerry Reese seems to have more confidence in this group than most others outside of the organizatio
"It's not like we have no one at receiver," said Reese. "We have some players that we like at wide receiver. We have good receivers on this team."
Hixon showed flashes of big play ability last season, but wasn't able to accomplish it consistently. Against Seattle, with Burress serving a one game suspension, Hixon hauled in four passes for 102 yards and a TD all in the first half. He even had a chance to change the course of the second game vs the Eagles but watched an 87 yard touchdown pass fall through his fingers.
Inconsistency like this is usually corrected with experience. That's why last season's playing time should lead to more production this year. Hixon believes the lessons learned will help him avoid making the same mistakes again
"I took things maybe a little too hard," Hixon said. "When a mistake was made, maybe I waited a series to turn the page instead of the next play. It's just living and learning from mistakes."
All Smith did last season was lead the team in receptions. Working primarily from the slot position, Smith was asked to work the middle of the field and pick up first downs. He performed that role to perfection. Now, in his second full season, he will be given far more responsibility and says he's ready for it.
"I know I have the ability to stretch the field and can be a big time play maker, but when you have Plaxico and Amani, they were choosing to use me in the role they did. I mean I did run a 4.37 at the combine!" Smith said.
Hixon and Smith will both be asked to make big leaps in terms of their production, and if past experiences can be used to predict future events, both of these players are in line for just that. With a full season finally under their belts, there is no reason to suspect anything less than stellar statistics from the two new starters. With Smith and Hixon the Eli Manning's passes will fall into good hands.
Oh, and by the way, Mario Manningham is entering his second full season in the NFL too.