The 2013 campaign was an extremely strange one for the New York Giants‘ pass offense. Unlike when he was coming off his first Super Bowl MVP, Eli Manning was expected to enter the year playing like an elite quarterback.
And at times, especially early on, he did. Victor Cruz was dicing up defenses from the slot and Hakeem Nicks showed us he could shake off the foot injury he suffered in OTAs that sat him out into the preseason. Nicks’ ability to rip the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense to shreds in Week 2 capped off with a long completion over Aqib Talib that more or less won Big Blue the game, and left us wondering if New York would finally be consistent in sporting an elite aerial attack.
Well, the foot injury crept back for Nicks, benching or hobbling him for most of the remainder of the year. Cruz felt the ripple effects too, as the slot receiver’s increased defensive attention — while leading to only 14 fewer targets — resulted in over 700 fewer yards than the previous year.
NorthJersey.com’s Art Stapleton reflected on a recent event that sounds extremely minor in a vacuum, but is music to the ears of any Giants fan who sat through Manning’s inconsistencies in 2013:
“My confidence is extremely high,” Nicks said, shortly before taking a three-foot jump from the stage inside the Timex Performance Center auditorium last month. The leap wasn’t planned, but the fact that Nicks didn’t think twice about his right foot or his left knee is cause for optimism.
What’s good for Nicks’ foot (and knee) is good for Cruz is ultimately great for Manning. He dropped from No. 8 in the Pro Football Focus 101 in 2011 the to No. 90-ranked player for 2012. There are many factors at play, but it’s no coincidence that Nicks was hobbled nearly all year.