It was third-and-eight against the Redskins and the Giants' continuing tryout for the slot receiver position began on their very first drive of the season. Seconds later, Victor Cruz dropped a good intermediate pass one yard beyond the first-down marker. Cruz would be targeted only once more during the 28-14 loss to Washington. And so the search to replace third-down target and Eli Manning security blanket Steve Smith carried on.
Today the Giants added 35-year-old Brandon Stokley to the roster to compete for that position. He tried out alongside wide receivers T.J. Houshmanzadeh and David Clowney, though Stokely's size and skill set were the best fit for the team. If you're a Giants fan, you remember Stokley burning the team as a Baltimore Raven in the Super Bowl 10 years ago.
Much of the reaction to Stokley's addition has been muted. A 35-year-old wide receiver coming off lackluster seasons near the end of his career, Stokley isn't the sexy signing Giants fans have been clamoring for coming off the team's inactive offseason. But he's a savvy veteran who can run precise routes and hold onto the ball. Domenik Hixon and Cruz just aren't the answer in the slot.
Manning said all the right things about Cruz and his fellow receivers coming off a loss against the Redskins; but the stat sheet is all that matters. Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham are the big-play targets in this rebuilding offense, and a capable receiver must emerge to provide Manning with a sure-handed option on intermediate distance plays on third down.
The argument can be made that the Giants have a first- and second-down problem—and that argument holds some water. But they went 1-for-10 in third-down situations, and the leading candidates for the slot position were targeted four times all day, catching two passes for 21 yards.
So if Stokley is ready, maybe he can bring more to the table than expected.