Injuries deteriorated a supposedly dream-team defense last season and dismantled a once formidable rushing attack. Aside from a minor injury to Nicks that caused him to miss a couple games during the cupcake portion of the season, the receiver corps was an oasis of production instead of another unit decimated by failing health.
So far, 2010 has not gotten off to the same start. By June, the team lost possibly the best reserve receiver (and undoubtedly one of the best return men) in the league when Domenik Hixon tore his ACL. Nicks may end up being fine after a couple weeks’ rest at most; but he may also be laid up long term. We won’t know until tomorrow.
Either way, it’s too early in camp to start filling the infirmary. The season ahead is long and a championship team on opening day may not be a championship team Divisional weekend when it’s forced to play with half of the original starters.
Enter Ramses Barden. Even if Nicks is given the OK to resume practicing before you finish reading this article, a healthy rotation of quality receivers will be needed all season long. The three pronged attack of Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, and Nicks stole the show in ’09. Since the Giants rarely venture to so much as a four receiver set, injury may be the only opening Barden and his fellow reserves have to see the field.
“I want to be heavily involved in the greenzone offense and also called upon when we need a big play or a first down.” said Barden in a recent interview with GFB. “And as my experience grows and the coaches continue to become more comfortable with me I definitely see myself filling a starting role.”
The reality of the situation is not everyone will be healthy every game and with Hixon no longer an option, Barden may just get the opportunity to start sooner than he had anticipated. Before that can happen, he’ll need to take a page out of a teammate’s book.
In 2008, it appeared that New York had squandered away a draft pick on a former Michigan star named Mario Manningham. His rookie year yielded merely 4 catches for 26 yards. 2009 saw Mario grab 57 receptions for 822 yards and 5 touchdowns. Do the math.
Barden also had a wash out rookie season, seeing the field in only 3 games and hauling in only one pass for 16 yards. For optimistic fans, and clearly the organization, comparisons are inevitable.
“Mario made great improvements from his first to second year. It showed in practice, that’s where it always starts.” replied Barden when asked if he sees a similar sophomore break-out on the horizon. “I’ve had an entire year to learn and grow. I feel a lot more comfortable and I’m ready and excited to make a big impact when the season starts. Things are starting to feel natural and the game has started to slow down, the next step is just taking advantage of the opportunities as they come.”
If Nicks has to miss any significant amount of time, those opportunities are on their way. If Nicks is healthy, Barden can still make a much bigger impact as the fourth receiver. Unlike the three men ahead of him on the depth chart, Barden is over 6 feet tall. 6’6” in fact. Height like that is something the Giants have lacked at receiver since losing Plaxico Burress. Height like that undoubtedly played a major role in drafting Barden out of Cal Poly.
“Obviously I bring a very unique attribute to the team with my height.” said Barden. “However I believe once you look beyond the height you’ll see that I’m a complete receiver."
"A complete receiver has dependable hands, great speed, crisp routes, great work ethic, and that special playmaking ability. I’ve got huge hands and I think I’ve shown I can catch consistently. My fellow receivers and DBs I’ve gone against will vouch for my speed. [insert chuckle] Now if we can only get the Madden game to get it right. Running better routes has been the focus of my game since I was drafted and I think its improved greatly and will continue to (improve) as I continue to work on it. I pride myself in my work ethic and making plays is what got me here and I’m excited to show I can be a premiere playmaking receiver at this level too.”Is Madden’s rating system correct? We’ll find out sooner if not later. If this spring/summer is any indication, at some point this year a top receiver will be in sweat pants on the sidelines. Barden will be called upon to be a top three option. It’s only a matter of time.
- First, I would like to apologize for assuring the GFB/PFNYC community that Brett Favre would return. Actually, let me rephrase. I was GOING to apologize but this mistake is not mine. It is the Minnesota front office’s. If Favre’s retirement is legitimate (big if), than the Vikings deserve to go 0-16. How do you let yourselves be strung along by a player regardless of who he is (who he is by the way is a 41 year old man on a bum ankle). You have a championship contending roster at your disposal as long as a decent QB is at the helm. You clearly don’t have faith in your other two QBs yet you wait until August to find out if you have a capable player under center? Sorry Vikings fans, your team let you down.
-As for the news that Plaxico Burress may once again wear blue. I welcome the idea (understandably Barden may not). He’s got talent. He helped us win a Super Bowl. He is going to be humbled to the point that he can’t/won’t complain about a reduced role. There are those of you who will blast him for breaking the law or screwing up in his personal life. I never buy into that. Football is about football when all is said and done. How many Giants fans wouldn’t take a 25 year old LT back in a heartbeat? Exactly.