With Sure-Handedness an anomaly for Receivers, Hakeem is a Dream that must become reality.
Call it "garbage time" if you wish. Explain it away as just being another pre-season 4th Quarter where the darkest and deepest corners of the depth chart are fighhting for their rightful place on the Giants practice squad. Take it for whatever you think it's worth, but as a Giants fan I saw something in a receiver that has been sorely lacking since Glendale in February of 2008; confident hands.
Hakeem Nicks hadn't shown much leading up to the 3rd quarter of last night's annual exhibition against the New York Jets, hauling in just two catches in the first two games. But two touchdowns and 144 yards later, Nicks is finally comfortable with his role and with his new team. "I feel like I know what I'm doing out there" he was quoted as saying in a postgame interview.
OK, so it was primarily David Carr - and not Eli Manning - throwing the ball to Nicks, and it wasn't as if he was being covered by the amazing Darrelle Revis or even the savvy-yet-suddenly-sloppy veteran Lito Sheppard (who was pulling at Mario Manningham's jersey like a 13-year old girl would claw at one of the Jonas brothers Marc Ecko sew fly shirts). But when the game was on the line - and for Nicks, this was his moment to show what he could do - he made the big grabs and showed the superior route running ability and quickness that Jerry Reese drafted him for.
In the first quarter, Nicks had made an impressive 15-yard grab off a pass from Manning as he broke back towards the sideline and gained the inside edge on Sheppard - falling to his knees and scooping up the low pass just as it was designed. His first TD was a corner route to the back of the end zone where he curled around behind CB Drew Coleman and twisted his torso to the right as the pass came down - perfectly positioning himself on what was basically a desparation play by Carr who was about to get hammered in the pocket. On the 71-yard TD pass, Nicks was simply the benificiary of a blown coverage scheme as he was streaking down the right side - there wasn't a single white jersey in sight, and it was beautiful.
What - you may be asking yourself - is so beautiful about an easy touchdown catch that any legitimate NFL pro should be able to make?
It was as beautiful as Steve Smith's dropped pass was ugly.
It was as beautiful as Domenik Hixon's mishandling of an Eli pass (resulting in a David Harris interception) was disappointing.
The Smith drop was a tide shifter that would have put the Giants up by two touchdowns in the first quarter. After going up 7-0, the Giants defense stuffed NY(A) for three-and-out. On the first play of their ensuing drive, a perfectly thrown 60-yard heat seeker by Manning landed right in the cradle of a wide-open Smith - who had five steps on the nearest defender, The ball had 'touchdown' written all over it. In... and out. In and out. 14-0 suddenly became 7-7 less than four minutes later. The first thing I thought of was the eerily similar drop by Hixon against the Eagles last year - same situation, same result. It's what I call an "inflation transfusion" from one team's balloon to the other's.
Hixon's was much less egregious, a bullet over the middle that was a bit off target (Manning has yet to learn he needs to take a little something off those to avoid breaking his receiver's fingers). Hixon, however had both hands on the ball. You know what they say, and it's true - if you have your hands on it, you have to catch it. Hixon did not, and it popped off his hands and straight into the air resulting in a turnover that led to the Jets first score of the game.
If Smith and Hixon - the team's starters - can't make those catches in a preseason game, what will they do when it really counts?
Steve Smith said in a post game interview, "Perfect pass, right in the bread basket. I'm just glad it was a preseason game."
I'm not. And I'm pretty sure Tom Coughlin's not.
Maybe it's time to start planning Hakeem Nicks' "gradual transition" into the starting unit sooner, rather than later.
Quotes source: RSS Feed (Dan Graziano)