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.