New York Giants Breakout Candidate: Jerrel Jernigan

When the New York Giants selected Jerrel Jernigan with the 83rd overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft he was expected to have an impact on the team, especially on special teams as a kick returner.  Nothing seemed to work out as planned with Jernigan last season.  He was one of the better prospects in the draft last season at the position, small but explosive.  Names like Santana Moss, Steve Smith, and DeSean Jackson were used to describe what Jernigan could become.

The Giants envisioned Jernigan as an answer in the return game while he learned the offense.  Things never worked out the way the Giants had hoped with Jernigan.  His troubles began in the preseason when he had 4 fumbles against the Jets on returns which landed him in head coach Tom Coughlin’s doghouse.  He didn’t see playing time until Week 5 of the regular season because of his struggles in the return game and learning the offense.  When he did get on the field it was solely as a returner, a job he couldn’t hold onto due to injury and ineffectiveness.

Because of the lockout, rookies didn’t get all of the offseason programs to help them learn the offense.  Jernigan also would have found it difficult to break into the receiving corps that already featured Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Victor Cruz, and, before his injury, Domenik Hixon.  Manningham is now gone and there will be an open competition in camp for the third receiver spot with Hixon, Jernigan, and Ramses Barden all trying to win that spot.  Hixon, who is coming off of his second ACL injury in as many years, has the most experience but Jernigan possesses the speed and talent to win the job.

If he can learn the playbook and keep his head in the game there is no reason to think Jernigan won’t at least contribute something to the Giants offense.  He is one of the fastest guys on the team.  He has below average height for the position at only 5-9 (really he is just under 5-9 at 5-87 but who is counting?) but his speed, especially with the opponents best corners on Nicks and Cruz should work in his favor.

I am naming him a breakout candidate because he should be able to produce something offensively for the Giants this season.  If he can live up to the potential then the Giants will have another weapon in their offensive arsenal.  The potential is there.  Then again, it was there with Sinorice Moss at one point too, and Ramses Barden.  It will be up to Jernigan to come through and he should get plenty of chances to show the Giants what he has during mini-camps, training camp, and the preseason.  I think a full offseason program will help Jernigan and I believe he will take advantage and become the Giants third receiver.

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  • Keith

    I really thought he could be one of our guys last year. I hope he just needed to get calmed down from playing in the NFL every kids dream. He has the speed even if he only is a 4th string guy who can come in get 1 on 1 every down and just rocket down the feild as long as he can come up with Eli’s bombs

  • Chris Gamble

    A lot of people had high hopes for Jernigan. I think the shortened camp really hurt him. The talent is there he just needs to put it together. I think he will have a decent season this year. He will have favorable match-ups against the other teams corners and he should be able to use his speed to get separation. His size is a concern though as he could get knocked around on the line but I think he will be a very good third wide receiver. The guy I am starting to have my doubts about is Ramses Barden.

    • Keith

      If Barden can stay healthy he can a great year. He has the Size to a deadly rezone threat. I think this could be the make or break year for them both. The Giants are bound to draft a WR in the mid or late rounds for ins. If Barden doesnt step up this year he will be gone. JJ has an edge over him due to speed so the coachs can see him on ST and off. I think Barden can be the better WR but if he doesn’t make it this year its over for him in NY.

      Speed is great but in the Redzone Nicks gets doubled and its hard to score. Cruz and JJ are fast but a guy like barden can get jump balls and fight for it never hurts to have a big guy like that come in inside in the 20. Thats part my thinking with what happened to the Eagles last year they had no big WR to get the ball in the redzone they just doubled the TE and didnt let them run

  • Scott

    I agree that Jernigan will have a much more productive season this year than last, but my vote for Breakout Candidate goes to Da’Rel Scott. With Jacobs gone, the number two RB spot is up for grabs. With Bradshaw’s history of foot problems, he needs a lot of down-time and Scott may get the playing time he needs to flourish (assuming he can hold onto the ball…). He’s exciting to watch and provides the breakaway speed we’ve been missing for many years.

    • Keith

      I dont think he is ready to be taking more than 4-5 plays per game. He isnt big enough to take a beating or hold on to the ball yet. I wouldnt mind seeing him come in and have a few screens and or 3rd and long draw plays that could get big yardage.

      I think a RB has to go in the first 3 rounds to replace Jacobs.

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  • Aaron

    I enjoyed reading your analysis, as I agree with you about Jerrel. One thing that you failed you bring up and must consider is that a WR normally needs 2-3 years to become acclimated with the NFL vs NCAA. WRs don’t just step normally, making you appreciate just how talented a guy like AJ Green is. By the way, I’m a hugebGiants fan.