Much has been penned about Paterson, New Jersey native wideout Victor Cruz. Why not? Cruz is an insane possession receiver that has shaken off his Game one rust and shown why (11 receptions, 179 yards, one TD) the league most definitely now knows who #80 is. What, or who, is unspoken about here as of late is the guy lined up on the opposite side most plays: WR Hakeem Nicks.
Nicks was drafted in April of 2009 -29th overall- out of North Carolina. This was the class when most fans were screaming for receivers like Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, Kenny Britt, Percy Harvin and even Darius Heyward-Bey to be drafted before #88 became a New York Giant. Again, there’s a reason that General Manager Jerry Reese trusts Director of College Scouting Marc Ross and his team of emissaries. As Nicks enters his fourth season in blue, he’s still building his legacy – and it’s looking to be an historical one.
Hakeem has already put himself in the association with Giants greats like Del Shofner and Amani Toomer in his, so far brief, tenure. He should undoubtedly be on pace (if health remains) to wrap up his 3rd consecutive 1,000 yard season with QB Eli Manning. With #10 at the helm and route-runners like Cruz commanding coverage attention, Nicks has been able to grow into his own threat – one that one let injuries stop his evolution.
Week two against an extremely aggressive defense in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Nicks dealt with about as much adversity as his counterpart, plus a foot that already pained him on any type of cuts.
However, by the time the game clock hit 0:00, the Giants’ 24-year old number one receiver had 10 receptions, 199 yards and a touchdown – all on one foot. Nicks’ recently surgically-repaired right foot had gotten stepped on awkwardly (after a play where he was held – no call, shocker), but he only came out for one play.
Part of what #88 is doing out there is helping his quarterback, who’s clearly enthusiastic about whom he’s throwing to.
''Obviously it's fun when guys are getting open and guys are making plays and you're seeing things,'' Manning said. ''You get to fight back and especially the first half, you're frustrated and you're angry and then you get the excitement of coming back and see it happening.''
Already playing with pain, Hakeem Nicks could be seen limping at times yet ran crisp routes and made incredible catches. It didn’t matter the play call -slant, fade, out route/inside, flag pattern or post- the Giants’ #1 from 2009 ran them all while dealing with DBs that were holding, interfering and pushing off. The coverage assignment was mostly on #25, Aqib Talib to take care of Nicks. Despite help from #24, Mark Barron, #31, E.J. Biggers, #43, Ahmad Black, #20, Ronde Barber, and #33, Brandon McDonald – Hakeem did what a number one receiver does: he undressed them and set them up for the other pass-catchers to eventually also take advantage.
Aggression is one thing, blatant mugging/accosting is another when it comes to playing defensive back; neither worked in the end. Strong work, Mr. Nicks.
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