When the Giants go to the draft table every year, they may not take the best players, but the ones they feel will help their football team. Whether it be right away or down the road a bit, they expect their high picks to produce at some point.
But did the Giants think it would take this long for 2009 draftees RB Andre Brown and WR Ramses Barden to begin contributing to the cause?
"I’m not surprised about the quality of their contribution. Their numbers? Maybe," said head coach Tom Coughlin. "I even think we left a couple plays on the field that we could’ve had too. Each one of those guys could’ve contributed to, and they added more. As far as them preparing themselves, and not being big-eyed, wanting the opportunity, going and doing it for our team, that was very gratifying."
Their breakouts could not have come at a more opportune time. No. 1 wideout Hakeem Nicks is still battling residual effects from a broken bone in his foot and Domenik Hixon has a concussion. The team needed Ramses Barden, their most senior reserve, to fill the vacancy Thursday night. He responded with a nine-catch, 138 yard performance.
Coughlin was asked why, after four training camps, the light has suddenly gone on for Barden.
"Well, the curve is different for everybody," Coughlin explained. "It does in some cases take time, other situations, people come in and grasp it faster and they go with it. It’s different by individual."
GM Jerry Reese had to be sitting in his office wondering if and when Barden would acclimate to the pro game. Whenever the 6'6" receiver out of Cal Poly made any progress on the field, an injury would befall him. Many believed the team had seen enough this summer. Rumors were that Barden was close to being cut right before the season. Not so, says GM Jerry Reese.
"We said this all along. All he has to do is stay in there and he'll do a good job for us," Reese said after the Giants' 36-7 pasting of the Panthers Thursday night. "He's a talented player. We picked him in, I can't remember, the 3rd or 4th round. We expect guys like that to play."
And play they did. Brown served as the featured back for the second consecutive game this week. He has averaged 5.6 yards per carry, a threshold Giant fans never thought they'd see again.
Brown was first waived by the Giants in 2010 after it appeared he had not fully recovered from a torn Achilles the previous season. He was then signed and waived twice by Denver and then spent time in Indianapolis, Carolina and Washington.
The Giants re-signed Brown last August, but he didn't make the final cut. He ended up on the practice squad and stayed there all the way through the Giants' victory over Patriots in Super Bowl. It was then, the Giant faithful were reintroduced to Brown.
Many fans had forgot about Brown. He was just another NFL washout in their eyes. On the plane ride home from Indianapolis, Brown composed a championship chant (now known as "I got a ring") that became a viral internet video and was reprised during the Giants' victory parade in NYC several days later. The team and the fans took him back in, so to speak.
This summer in Albany, Brown began running with more authority and made club on merit. Injuries and attrition brought him to this point. Ahmad Bradshaw got hurt. Da'Rel Scott and top draft choice David Wilson were not distinguishing themselves. Brown got the call last week vs Tampa when Bradshaw left the game with a neck injury. The rest you know.
For what it's worth, anyone who has ever seen Brown practice in earnest would have to admit he has a great motor. Barden, however, has rarely shown the prowess he unleashed the other night.
Barden and Brown were picked back-to-back by the Giants in the third and fourth rounds of the 2009 NFL Draft. Reese admitted he couldn't remember the exact order.
"I can't remember who we picked last year, it's so far back," Reese kidded. "We just try to pick good players, and our coaches do a good job putting them in the right place with their skill set. On a short week, our coaches did a really nice job getting those guys ready to go."
Reese has kept Barden close and never took his eyes off Brown. He was asked if he felt any vindication watching two of his "busts" have breakout games on the same night.
"That's nice for people to say, but sometimes that's not the truth," the reserved GM admitted. "I've seen a lot of guys after their third year into their fourth year turn it on and be tremendous players. Amani Toomer comes to mind. His first three years, he was trying to get it and in his fourth year, he was lights out. He was one of the all-time great receivers. So, it's not always the three-year rule with guys. Guys are different, their maturation process is different for guys and I'm just happy those kids took advantage of their opportunities."
Not satisfied with that answer, reporters kept at him, asking Reese again if he was proud of Brown and Barden.
"I'm just happy for the kids, that's what's most important. I'm happy for them, that they took advantage of their opportunity and helped us win a football game. You know, it's a long way to go and they have to continue to be ready to play and we try to pride ourselves on having guys step in and play. Our coaches do a tremendous job. Next guy up. lets use their skill set and let's win games.......So, sometimes you have to manufacture some wins when you're down some guys and our coaching staff has done a nice job and everybody pitches in,everybody strains harder when you're down guys. The players strain harder, the coaches strain harder, so it's a nice job by our players and coaches."
Depth, no matter how it comes, is the key to winning in this league. The Giants seem to continue to find it.