Steve Smith on IR: 5 Reasons This Really Hurts the New York Giants
The New York Giants on Wednesday announced that star wide receiver Steve Smith is headed to the injured reserve due to cartilage damage sustained to his knee when tackled during Monday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Initially thought to just be a hamstring injury, an MRI revealed the true extent of his injury. While some outlets have reported Smith’s injury to be a torn ACL or meniscus, it has been confirmed that the damage was to the cartilage in his knee.
This is a big blow to a Giants team in the thick of a battle for a spot in the playoffs and a game against divisional foe Philadelphia on order for this weekend.
To say that Smith’s injury will have a negative impact on the Giants is obvious; the real question is in how many ways will Smith’s injury impact the Giants.
The following slideshow consists of five different ways that Smith’s injury will have a negative impact on the Giants’ season.
1. Wide Receiver Depth Was Decimated, Now It's Destroyed
Domenik Hixon, Ramses Barden, Sinorice Moss and Victor Cruz are already waiting for Smith on the injured reserve.
Many analysts, including myself, believed that the Giants had perhaps the deepest wide receiver core in the league. That may have been true, but no matter how deep a position is, it is hard to maintain a high level of play for a position when five guys have hit the IR.
Smith’s injury leaves Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham the starters, but the problem with that is that they are both battling their own injury problems. Manningham especially is hurting, and he might not be able to play this Sunday.
With Smith returning from a previous injury, the Giants' receiving core was looking to be returning to form. So long as the Giants had Smith, the other injuries didn’t seem to matter. Without him, combined with the other injuries to receivers, Smith’s injury might be the straw that breaks the Giants' passing game back.
Now the Giants will have to start relying on midseason free-agent pickups Derek Hagen, Michael Clayton and Devin Thomas. That’s not what the Giants had in mind preseason I can tell you that.
2. Smith’s Injury Creates a Void of Leadership on Offense
Smith may be entering only his fourth year on the Giants, but considering how young the skill position players around him on the Giants Smith is almost an elder statesman.
Now, a lot Giant fans won't want to hear this, but Brandon Jacobs is, in many ways, the emotional leader of the Giants' offense, but I also believe that Smith was the veteran leader. Again, not that he was more of a rah rah guy but a glue set a great example kind of guy. The anti-Plax.
The guy who showed up early and stayed late, the guy who taught the other players on the team what it means to be a professional. I think the Giants will sorely miss Smith’s professionalism, not just on the field, but especially off it.
In the meantime, the Giants have to find someone on the team now who can pick up the leadership slack. But who is it? Boss? Too quiet. Nicks? Too young.
And then you start to see how this is a problem, without Smith’s leadership, the Giants are in trouble because they have no one to replace it.
3. Smith Was the Giants Clutch Playmaker
The Giants put a lot of pressure on Eli Manning in the passing game. While they are known as a power running team, the Giants' offense puts its quarterback in a lot of bad situations and relies on him to get them out of it.
Down by four in the fourth? Eli. Third-and-long situation because on the first two downs running plays didn’t work? Eli.
So how is this about Smith? Because when Eli needs clutch yards, whether in the fourth quarter or on third down Smith is always his first read.
Reason being, Eli can trust Smith. Smith will always run the right route, will almost always catch the balls thrown to him, and he will always get the correct depth.
This is important; I can’t tell you how many times I have seen Manningham misjudge depth and leave the Giants and Eli a yard short on third down.
With Smith that wasn’t a problem.
Without him, it’s a big problem; who will be Eli’s clutch guy now?
4. Eli’s Play, Already Inconsistent, Might Become More So
Without Smith, Eli’s most dependable wide receiver out there, Eli might become even more erratic.
And Eli already has 19 picks on the season, which leads all quarterbacks.
Now in fairness to Eli a lot of those picks have been because a receiver has either tipped a ball or run the wrong route. With Smith, Eli felt confident that wouldn’t be an issue.
Without Smith, who in many ways is Eli’s security blanket in the same way Amani Toomer used to be, Eli will be forced to look at players more often that he doesn’t have the confidence in or chemistry with that he had in Smith.
Eli may be an emotionless robot at times, but even he is prone to getting frustrated or down on himself from time to time. Smith was the guy he could rely to get him out of it.
Without Smith, Eli has no security blanket, and Eli’s play may suffer for it.
5. The Giants Running Game Will Suffer
Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham both have more talent than Steve Smith, this I do not contest. But both offer different aspects than Smith does, both offer more big plays.
Big plays don’t sustain long drive, clutch play on third down does. This lets the Giants run the ball with extreme prejudice, confident in Eli’s ability to get key third downs to keep drives alive.
While Nicks and Manningham will continue to offer big plays, both are not the third-down receiver Smith is. This means that drives will die on third down, which would prevent the Giants running game from find a rhythm.
This means shorter drives, a more tired defense and that the Giants would have to rely on a passing game that is already short because why? It lacks Steve Smith.
Again it’s not that Smith’s presence keeps safeties over the top at all times, it's that he converts on key third downs, allowing those long drives that get the Giants run game into a groove, burns time and rests the defense will be that much more difficult to sustain.
Any way you cut it, that will make the Giants players and coaches road to the playoffs, and if they make the playoffs, the Super Bowl, that much more difficult travel.