Offseason Breakdown: New York Giants Wide Receivers (Part II)
In Part I, we covered the three New York Giants wide receivers who are likely to make the team behind stalwarts Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, namely Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan, and Louis Murphy. Now we’ll turn our focus to the remaining five challengers: Ramses Barden, Brandon Collins, Kevin Hardy, Kris Adams, and Jeremy Horne.
It is not set in stone how many wide receivers the New York Giants will carry on the 53-man roster. But the team usually keeps six. That might be harder to do this year if the Giants keep three quarterbacks. Nevertheless, for now, let’s assume the Giants keep six. That means barring injury or something unforeseen, Barden, Collins, Hardy, Adams, and Horne will be fighting for one roster spot. It’s easy to dismiss the relevance of the sixth receiver. But just keep in mind that Victor Cruz was once considered “camp fodder” too.
Drafted in 3rd round of the 2009 NFL Draft, Ramses Barden has been a disappointment. In four seasons, Barden has only had 29 receptions for 394 yards and no touchdowns. His best game as a pro came in Week 3 of the 2012 season, when he started against the Panthers and caught nine passes for 138 yards. But he only had five catches the rest of the season.
So why was Barden re-signed by the Giants? For one, you need bodies in camp to throw to, and the Giants usually carry at least 10 wide receivers heading into camp. Secondly, Barden knows the offense. If someone gets hurt and can’t play, it’s easier for him to come in and contribute more quickly because of that. Third, Barden does have some talent. He is a huge receiver (6-6, 224lbs) with long arms and decent athleticism. He has flashed as a player on the practice field and in regular-season games.
But for some reason, Barden simply hasn’t been able to be consistent contributor once the games count. He’s only been on the active regular-season roster 29 times in 64 chances. Some of that is due to injuries, but Barden also has never stood out as a special teams performer. It’s very tough to activate your fifth or sixth receiver on game day if he doesn’t contribute on special teams. In addition, as a receiver, Barden lacks ideal speed and quickness, and appears to have difficulty separating from tight, aggressive coverage, especially off of the line of scrimmage. Most importantly, with the exception of Week 3 in 2012, Barden simply has not consistently delivered on the playing field.
Barden will have to fight to make the 2013 team. He has a decent chance to make it if none of the other wide receivers impress because, again, he knows the system and therefore would be a good insurance policy if someone gets hurt. Even if he makes it, however, unless he dramatically improves or someone gets hurt, he’ll likely be inactive for most games once again.
Brandon Collins lacks ideal size (5-11, 180lbs) but he has very good speed (4.4) and quickness. Collins also has collegiate experience returning punts.
The Giants originally signed Brandon Collins as a rookie free agent after he impressed at the May 2012 rookie mini-camp. Collins stood out again a month later at the full-team mini-camp in June 2012. “I think Brandon Collins has looked really, really impressive in practices,” said Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride. “That has been fun to see, because I didn’t know much about him…I have seen better quickness than anything…more quickness than speed. Good speed, great quickness, but also picking up the offense pretty quick.”
Raised expectations fizzled out shortly thereafter as Collins did not have a catch in the first three preseason games and was waived before the last preseason contest. He spent some time on the Giants’ Practice Squad in September but was not with the team for most of the season. Nevertheless, it appears that the Giants saw enough in Collins to bring him back for one more go-around as they re-signed him in January.
Kevin Hardy was originally signed by the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2012 NFL Draft. The Saints waived him in August 2012. The Giants signed him in January 2013. Hardy has ordinary size (6-0, 182lbs), but he has very good speed (4.4 range) and leaping ability (37 inch vertical). He also has collegiate experience as a kickoff returner. Hardy is very raw, having played in a college offense at the Citadel that only threw the ball 75 times his senior season. Hardy only had four catches for 53 yards and one touchdown in 2011.
Kris Adams was originally signed by the Chicago Bears and an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2011 NFL Draft. He did not make the team but spent time on the Practice Squads of the Bears, Rams, and Vikings in 2011. The Colts signed him in June 2012. Adams impressed in offseason workouts and caught five passes for 90 yards for Indianapolis in the preseason. He made the team and caught two passes for 26 yards in September, but the Colts then moved Adams to the Practice Squad in October. The Giants signed Adams in January 2013.
Adams has a nice combination of size (6-3, 194lbs) and athletic ability (4.4-range in the 40, 39.5 vertical jump, 6.97 3-cone), but he needs a lot of technique work, especially with his route running. Nevertheless, Adams has demonstrated an ability to threaten defenses down the field with his speed. Although he is capable of the circus catch, he needs to become more consistent catching the football. Adams has not stood on on special teams at the pro level.
The Giants signed Jeremy Horne in May 2013 after he impressed at the rookie mini-camp as tryout player. Indeed, Horne convinced the Giants to waive very talented undrafted rookie free agent WR Marcus Davis out of Virginia Tech, deciding to swallow the $15,000 signing bonus they gave Davis.
Horne played at the University of Massachusetts with Victor Cruz and was considered by some to be the better NFL prospect. Horne was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Kansas City Chiefs after the 2010 NFL Draft. Horne spent time on both the Chiefs’ practice squad and 53-man roster until he was finally released in August 2012. He has only played in 12 games with no catches. Horne has good size (6-2, 193lbs) and athletic ability (4.4 speed). He also has experience returning kickoffs.
“This guy’s a young player that has a certain skill set that is unique at times,” said former Chiefs’ Head Coach Todd Haley.
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On the surface, these five do not look like an overly impressive group. One gets the strong impression that Barden only came back to the Giants when the other 31 teams in the NFL expressed little interest. Collins was waived by the Giants last year and Hardy, Adams, and Horne have been waived by other teams. Yet the Giants have seen enough in each to at least give all five a legitimate shot at a spot on the 53-man roster. And they liked these five over any other available undrafted rookies. Will any one of these five players make a strong impression at training camp and the preseason? Special teams play could be the determining factor.