Without Nicks, the Giant offense sputtered, taking away the big play element and reliable receiving option that QB Eli Manning had become accustomed to. Nicks' ineffectiveness due to injury allowed defenses to increase their focus on WR Victor Cruz, who was throttled often in big games.
As we all know, the Giants live and die by their vertical passing game. This year, they died.
Jerry Reese said yesterday on ESPN Radio in New York that the Giants may have benefited by shelving star receiver earlier for either for a longer period of time or for the season.
From Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN NewYork:
Reese, Manning and Tom Coughlin have all said this week that Nicks' injury had a major impact on the Giants.Nicks only had three catches in the final three games of the season and was clearly not the player the team needed him to be. Had Reese and Tom Coughlin known then what they know now, they could have inserted rookie Rueben Randle in Nicks' role a lot sooner.
"(Manning) has played at a very high level and I don't think he played up to the level that he can play," Reese said. "Again I think it starts (with)... Hakeem Nicks has been one of the linchpins in our offense. He was banged up and I really think it took its toll on our offense and what we are trying to do.
"He was trying to fight through it," Reese continued. "But in hindsight, I think if we had to think about it again, maybe we would have taken him out a little quicker than we did. But that is neither here or there at this point. But I do think it affected the quarterback's play some."