- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Hakeem Nicks is looking forward to having a week off to heal.
"It's going to be very beneficial," Nicks told ESPNNewYork.com. "I plan on coming back stronger than before."
The talented wide receiver has battled injuries all year and is welcoming the break to try and get closer to 100 percent. Nicks has missed three games with a swollen left knee and lingering problems from his surgically repaired right foot, and his production is on pace for career-low numbers.
Sunday, in the 31-13 loss to the Bengals, Nicks caught a team-high nine passes for 75 yards, by far his best game the five contests he's played in since returned against San Francisco on Oct. 14. Nicks has 36 catches for 465 yards with just one touchdown in seven games.
"That's definitely a start," Nicks said of his effort Sunday. "Going in the right direction."
While Nicks has played at less than 100 percent for the entire year, gutting his way through injuries, the wide receiver hasn't been able to play like he has in the past. Since grabbing 10 balls for 199 yards and a touchdown against Tampa Bay on Sept. 16, and then missing the following three games, Nicks had just 13 catches in the four games leading up to Sunday's loss.
Sunday, Nicks finally got into the groove, with the team targeting him frequently and using him in the game plan. He was targeted 14 times, especially in the short and intermediate passing game, and had more catches and yards than he had in the previous two games combined. Nicks only has two games this year when he's caught more than five passes or more than 53 passing yards.
Giants wide receivers coach Kevin M. Gilbride said the injuries have slowed Nicks down, and he continues to need time to heal. He commended Nicks for fighting through the injuries, and is starting to see signs that Nicks can return to the form he's shown during his three-plus years with the Giants.
"Each week, he starts playing a little bit faster. Each week you start seeing the old 88 coming back," Gilbride said. "That's hopefully going to bode well for us down the stretch, because even yesterday, you can look at the catches and the stats, all that, but it's the subtleties of the way he runs his routes, the explosiveness after he catches the ball that you're starting to see come back. It's not quite there yet but it's getting there and that's what we need."
Over the past month, the Giants offense has struggled, with just one passing touchdown in the last four games. Although it hasn't been pretty lately, Nicks is confident the Giants offense will get it going soon and start producing like it was at the beginning of the year.
"Just everybody playing as one, eliminating turnovers and getting back to playing team ball," Nicks said of what needs to be done. "Which I have no doubt we'll do."