(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
If the Giants are going to make the playoffs for the first time since winning Super Bowl XLVI, the receiving corps will play a major role.
In 2011, Eli Manning threw for nearly 5,000 yards with the help of Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. Now Manningham and Nicks are gone, and Cruz is coming off a torn patellar tendon which limited him to six games last season.
The Giants are hoping that Cruz is healthy enough for some early-season salsa dances in the end zone.
“It’s good to see his progress these last months,” Manning said. “Seeing him out there cutting, running routes, doing drills is always good. Hopefully, he’ll continue to get stronger and stronger so he can be back for the start of the season.”
The 12th season of the Tom Coughlin-Eli Manning era will be the second with offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. The Giants finished the 2014 season with a 6-10 record, which included a seven-game losing streak.
“There isn’t a lot that I look back and I am real happy about,” McAdoo said.
One of the bright spots was Odell Beckham Jr., the electric wide receiver who was named AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Beckham Jr. set a plethora of rookie records despite missing the first four games with an injured hamstring.
His highlight catch in a nationally televised game against Dallas might have actually overshadowed how impressive the rest of his season was. He had 10 catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns in that Sunday Night game, which wasn’t even his best performance against a division rival. On December 14 against the Redskins, Beckham Jr. had 12 catches for 143 yards and three touchdowns.
Although it might not be exciting for fans, a lot of work has to go into behind the scenes work.
“The meetings are where they have to be great,” said wide receivers coach Sean Ryan. “The film study, watching that, catching the coaching points in the meetings and also on the field.”
New York could have a trio of tremendous receivers if Rueben Randle builds off his 71-reception 2014 campaign. The LSU product, who has 12 touchdown receptions in his first three seasons, ended last season with two strong games. Randle caught six passes for 132 yards and a touchdown in a win against the Rams, and then caught six more for 158 yards in the final game against the Eagles.
It’s an interesting time for the Giants who have rarely been mistaken for a fireworks show on offense. There were the Ike Hilliard/Amani Toomer years which included a Super Bowl appearance. Jeremy Shockey and Chris Calloway were both reliable targets on playoff teams. And Plaxico Burress may have been the most talented receiver in the long history of the Giants.
The 2011 season was the peak with the Cruz-Manningham-Nicks trio. Now, in what could be the last season with Tom Coughlin as head coach, the receivers might be the key to the NFC East title.