Even with Nicks back this week, others had to step up in the first-team reps and catch passes from Eli Manning, thus allowing Louis Murphy and Jerrel Jernigan playing time that normally they might not see. It also allowed former second round pick Rueben Randle to take first-team reps, even though he is slated to be the team's number three wide receiver and should see quite a bit of playing time in 2013.
In his rookie season, we all saw flashes of why Randle was called one of the most NFL-ready receivers in last seasons draft, as he hauled in 19 catches for 256 yards and three touchdowns, with his longest catch of the season at 56 yards. Randle was mostly used as the team's number four wide receiver behind Nicks, Cruz and Domenik Hixon, who left the Giants to sign with the Carolina Panthers in the spring.
So now with Randle stepping in and ready to take on a much greater role, he impressed media members in attendance at the Giants OTA's and at mini-camp this week, plus he impressed his offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride with how he has handled himself, as he told Kieran Darcy of ESPN New York.
"Rueben you saw emerge from a guy that showed flashes at times and always caught the ball well, but maybe didn't always run the routes as precisely, as crisply as you wanted, didn't have quite the understanding you wanted," Gilbride said. "[Over the past month] he looked like a guy that's been here for five or six years. He really benefited from the opportunity."
Despite only being his second year in the NFL, the long-time coach also said Randle benefited from being in East Rutherford and taking reps with Eli Manning at camp.
"His whole demeanor, his whole professionalism was outstanding," Gilbride said. "Now, is that because [Nicks and Cruz] weren't here, or because he got more reps, I don't know. But he certainly stepped into a leadership role. Not only did he grow, he kind of became the bell cow of the receiving corps. He was first in line and did all those things. That was not what we saw last year, not by a long shot. So to see him grow like that was a great step forward for him that will help us down the road."
Over the last two years, the Giants lost two key receivers to free agency in Steve Smith to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011 and Mario Manningham to the San Francisco 49ers in 2012; both of which haven't had the same production since they left the Giants. But both guys were key pars of the Giants offense that helped, especially Manningham in the postseason that lead to the Giants winning Super Bowl XLVI.
When asked if Randle was going to be involved in the offense, Gilbride was very quick to answer with enthusiasm about the second-year pro out of LSU.
"Oh, he's gonna play. He's gonna play a lot," Gilbride said. "He'll play first, second down, he'll be an outside receiver for us — whether he's at the X or the Z, he's gonna play. He's looking like he deserves to be out there for significant time."
If Randle lives up to what is expected of him, he might be able to surpass the play of Manningham and be an even better receiver in what could be a very high octane and explosive Giants offense in 2013.
photo credit: Mike Gannon
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