Will the Real Hakeem Nicks Return vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

By Louis Musto

Hakeem Nicks was not himself in the New York Giants’ season opener against the Dallas Cowboys, catching just four passes for 38 yards in a loss at home. It was his first real action (he played very sparingly in the Giants’ final preseason game) since breaking his foot during the offseason and it was obvious Nicks was still transitioning back into the NFL’s game speed.

This week, however, Nicks plans to be back to his old tricks, unhappy about his season-opening performance and hell-bent on making his presence known.

As the New York Post’s Mark Hale notes, Nicks’ Week 1 output since he was held to 20 yards on one reception in last season’s Week 16 matchup with the New York Jets, where the Giants receiver found himself on lockdown by Darrelle Revis on Revis Island.

Nicks has struggled to practice and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He is expected to play, but can he play at the level he expects himself to?

It won’t be easy.

Eli Manning likes to be on the same page with his receivers, and much of the rapport he builds with that group comes during practice. Yes, he and Nicks have been teammates for a few seasons now, but it has been months since they have really had the opportunity to work with one another.

Fortunately, the Giants are squaring off a Buccaneers defense that is rather questionable against the pass. The Bucs’ defensive coordinator, Bill Sheridan, was also the Giants defensive coordinator in 2009. That year, the Giants surrendered an embarrassing 31 touchdowns through the air—bad enough for second-worst in the NFL.

With lesser talent for Tampa, the Giants could find success against a defensive scheme they should be somewhat familiar with. The Buccaneers’ misfortune of having to account for so many passing targets should open up some opportunities for Nicks to get the football, and Manning has never shied away from throwing his go-to guy wearing the No. 88.

Nicks’ foot is obviously still hindering his performance to some extent or else he would be on the practice field rather than an exercise bike. For that alone, it’s too soon to expect Nicks to return to form in Sunday’s game, especially with Victor Cruz coming in overdue for a huge game and a memorial salsa dance in the end zone for his grandmother, who passed this week.

With that said, Nicks will have a bigger game than he did in the Giants’ Wednesday night opener against the hated Cowboys, but hold off on expecting a breakout return from the Giants star—and starting him on your fantasy team—at least for another week, when the Giants go on the road to take on the Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football.

Louis Musto is a New York Giants Featured Columnist for RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @LouisMusto.

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