The first 90 percent of Jerrel Jernigan‘s first three years in the NFL was a resounding disappointment.
The New York Giants drafted Jernigan out of Troy in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft. The Giants were hoping they had found a highlight reel punt returner and, maybe even eventually, a legitimate weapon along the outside.
Unfortunately for New York, Jernigan failed to show any kind of spark as a returner and also couldn’t work his way into the wide receiver rotation for nearly three years. However, Victor Cruz was held out of the final two and a half games of the 2013 season due to an injury, allowing Jernigan an opportunity for extended playing time.
Over the last three games of the year, Jernigan compiled 19 receptions, 237 receiving yards and two touchdown catches. Oh yeah, he also had two rushes for 57 yards and a touchdown. Suddenly everyone realized the kind of potential the Giants initially saw in the young Jernigan.
New York is hoping Jernigan can now build off of the momentum he gained at the conclusion of last year. Although Jernigan is primarily a slot receiver, the same position as Cruz, the Giants could always use another speedy threat who can create plays in the open field.
In new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo‘s system, Jernigan will have a chance to thrive. There should be a lot of short passes or screen passes that are designed to get some of New York’s speedier receivers out in the open field where they can exercise their explosiveness.
However, Jernigan will first need to fight his way into the rotation. To accompany Cruz, the Giants have Rueben Randle and rookie Odell Beckham Jr. They also re-signed the recently injury-riddled Mario Manningham.
While he is still just a reserve player, Jernigan showed a glimpse of the kind of electric current he can send through an offense. He has at the very least earned himself another opportunity. Now he must elevate his game to the next level and cement himself as a consistent target.