Heading into the 2009 season, the New York Giants are looking like they will be a team to beat once again. The only real problem they will have to face to start the season is their receiving core.
After the losses of Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer in the offseason, the Giants will have to fill their spots with young receivers with little to no experience. All the receiving spots are essentially up for grabs, with as much as six players fighting for the top three spots.
The top three players thus far through the first two preseason games are Domenik Hixon, Steve Smith and rookie Hakeem Nicks. All three players have had played in at least one of the preseason games and would be a great threesome if the season was to start today.
Domenik Hixon turned heads in the preseason last year as a return specialist, and made the transition into one of the Giants top receivers in 2008. He filled the void left by Burress after week 11, acting as the playmaking receiver on the outside.
Although Hixon is a great return specialist, it has been noted that he will not be returning kicks this season, which leads me to believe he will be the No. 1 receiver heading into week one. Mario Manningham and Sinorice Moss have been seen splitting the kick return duties in training camp.
After Hixon, the No. 2 receiver looks to be University of Southern California standout Steve Smith. Smith finished the season with similar numbers to Hixon, but proved that he could be a great possession receiver, if given the opportunity.
Smith missed the Giants first preseason game, but was able to play in the second game against the Bears. Expect to see Smith work the chains for the Giants this season, as Eli Manning’s most reliable receiver.
After releasing Burress, the Giants knew that they would need to draft a playmaker in the 2009 draft. With the 29th pick in the first round, the Giants selected University of North Carolina standout Hakeem Nicks.
Nicks set just about every receiving record at the University of North Carolina before leaving for the NFL. The Giants hope he can translate his great college play into a solid NFL career as one of the Giants top receivers.
The four other receivers in contention for the starting spots are Mario Manningham, Ramses Barden, Sinorice Moss and David Tyree. Manningham seems to be the front-runner out of these three, to receive significant playing time heading into 2009.
What gives Manningham an edge over the others, is his ability to make plays as a return specialists. Moss can also return the ball well, but he has yet to live up to his expectations since joining the Giants in 2006.
It is yet to be seen how exactly the Giants are going to counter their great running game in 2009, but what has been show is that there are plenty of young players ready to take the next step in their careers.
If the Giants can string together a solid passing game, expect to see the Giants in the playoffs and possibly the Super Bowl at the end of the season.
Giants wide receiver depth chart as of Aug. 25:
WR 1: Domenik Hixon
WR 2: Steve Smith
WR 3: Hakeem Nicks
WR 4: Mario Manningham
Others: Sinorice Moss, Ramses Barden, David Tyree