The New York Giants have had a pretty good one-two punch the past two seasons in Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith. The two combined for over 2000 yards in 2009, and in 2010 when they were both on the field teams had to game plan against them.
Hakeem Nicks is entering his third season and, by all accounts, had a breakout year in 2010 with room to get even better in 2011. He spent the entire off season working and spent as much time with Eli Manning as he could. He is, without question, the Giants go-to wide receiver.
However, with Steve Smith gone, can the Giants count on Mario Manningham to have as equally an important season?
Mario Manningham spent some of the 2010 season as the only reliable receiver for Eli, but for most of the year he played third fiddle to Smith and Nicks.
That didn’t stop him from being No. 22 in the NFL in yards, tied for 14th in touchdowns, tied for sixth in 20+ yard completions, and tied for 11th in big plays with four 40+ yard completions.
He averaged 15 yards per catch and had the longest play from scrimmage by a wide receiver in 2010 with his 92 yard touchdown catch against the Redskins in Week 17.
When the Giants needed him to step in to the No. 2 role last year, Manningham brought his ‘A’ game. It is for this reason why he will be a tremendous weapon for the Giants this year with Smith out the door.
You can never underestimate the role that experience and confidence plays in the NFL, and Manningham is now brimming with both.
Super Mario had 60 catches, 944 yards, and nine touchdowns last season, and there is no reason to believe he won’t improve on those numbers.
With defenses keying on the dominance of Hakeem Nicks, Manningham will often slip through the cracks. Hopefully his emergence will help the team make the playoffs for the first time in three years.