Blitz: WR Depth Suddenly An Issue

Steve Smith is now out at least four weeks with a torn pectoral muscle. He won’t be back before the Redskins game on Dec. 5. Domenik Hixon and Victor Cruz have already been put on season-ending IR. Sinorice Moss was injured and then released. And of course, Ramses Barden left Sunday with a fractured ankle and severe ligament damage. That left the Giants with only three wide receivers to call on.

Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Duke Calhoun — that’s it.

To be fair, the thought of losing Steve Smith for a month or more was tough – because he’s so critical to keeping the offense in rhythm. Third down and Steve Smith, right? He has great hands, his route running is pristine, Manning leans on him to move the chains, and he also moonlights as a deep threat when the defense stops paying attention and he can rip off a double move for a big gain. But losing Smith was a blow cushioned by one thing for me — the fact that now the Giants could utilize the exciting prospect and second-year rookie 6-6 Ramses Barden.

We saw Sunday that in the slot, Barden has made progress this season. Sunday, he caught three passes for 36 yards including a critical reception for 24 yards on a 3rd and 9. It just so happens that in the slot Barden was just fine — but it was his threat in the red zone (where many thought he would shine) that cost him his 2010 season. Unfortunately he rolled his ankle on a high pass from Manning on a back corner fade and was placed on IR late Tuesday afternoon. It’s a big loss of a big red-zone threat, and Barden has made significant progress this year.

So now what? Only three receivers to choose from? Not quite. As of this writing – WR Derek Hagan has just been signed to a one-year contract. Hagan was the No. 4 receiver last year for the Giants and like David Tyree in 2007, Hagan was known for his stellar play on special teams. Since the Giants can use any help they can get on special Teams coverage — this may end up being a good thing assuming no one else at WR goes down with an injury. Hagan ended last season with eight receptions for 101 yards and one TD after playing in all 16 games, but never starting.

Hagan is fast, runs good routes, and he knows the offense. To me this is the ideal signing right now. Hagan is probably in decent shape – we’ll find out at Wednesday’s practice whether he’s in “football shape” or not. But because he’s been steeped in the Giants system for the last two seasons and off seasons… he’s the best candidate to help the Giants WR core benefit from some depth and hit the ground running right away.

Second-year WR Samuel Giguere is the other option already familiar with the Giants organization. Giguere is currently on the Giants practice squad, and played four games with the Indianapolis Colts in 2009, starting once. His best game came against the Bengals in 2009 where he started and caught three passes for 53 yards including a 19-yard reception.

Of course, Amani Toomer is available as well, and is in good enough shape to run the NYC Marathon in 4:15 …

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