A lot was made this offseason about finding a replacement for Plaxico Burress—finding that next big threat in a receiving corps that didn’t fit that mold and still doesn’t.
Perhaps the more important move was finding a replacement for ol' reliable—Amani Toomer.
Before this season began, Steve Smith had already proved he could get open and make the catch. It could have been because defenses were focused on Plaxico Burress, or the Giants running game was so effective it forced defenses to crowd the box, but neither of those are the case this season, and Smith has actually increased his production in the offense.
His numbers are a testament to his blue-collar work ethic that is eerily similar to Toomer, the former fan-favorite who led the Giants with six receptions for 84 yards in Super Bowl XLII.
In Smith, quarterback Eli Manning has found his go-to guy, his sure-handed, steady route-running wide receiver. Smith’s ability to get open and almost always make the catch is reminiscent of the days when Toomer played for the Giants.
Just as with Smith, Manning seemed to always find Toomer in 3rd-and-short scenarios, in clutch-moment drives. Giants fans came to expect a pass to Toomer meant a completion at the very least; with Smith, it has become the same way.
Although the season is only four weeks old, the former USC stud is leading the NFL in receptions and receiving yards with 34 and 411, respectively. While he most likely will not hold the lead throughout the season, it would not be surprising to see him among the league leaders in receptions and yards by the end of the year.
While Toomer may have never been among the leaders in receptions, from the years 1999 to 2003, the former Giants wideout brushed shoulders with the NFL’s elite in reception yards, including his 2002 season, where he finished third behind Randy Moss and Marvin Harrison with 1,343 of them.
While Smith's stats at the moment looks like that of the other Steve Smith down in Carolina, the Giants' safety blanket seems more poised to fill the roll left by his former teammate in Toomer, who was known more as a possession wide receiver than anything else.
If Smith can continue to rack up the numbers, there is no reason why he couldn’t both fill the shoes left by Burress while satisfying his quarterback's needs to have an ol' reliable in a new set of hands.