The Giants might not have the services of Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith for several weeks, leaving the onus on the Giants young corps of receivers to step up. In their first game without the group’s veteran, the Giants youngsters provided admirable performance in the Giants 33-20 loss to Dallas.
The Giants receivers didn’t seem to miss a beat without Smith, finding ways to get open and helping quarterback Eli Manning rack up 387 passing yards. Mario Manningham, starting in place of Smith, led the team by tying a career-best with 10 receptions and scoring a touchdown, while Ramses Barden caught three passes for 34 yards before leaving the game with a right ankle sprain. Hakeem Nicks also caught five passes for 82 yards.
That doesn’t mean the Giants receivers wouldn’t like to see him back soon.
“We can always use him, it would’ve been better to have him out there, but I don’t know how many penalties we had. It would’ve helped to have him out there,” Manningham said. “We lost so there’s nothing we can really say or change. I know we would’ve played a better game if he was out there, that’s Steve.”
Smith is week-to-week with a partially torn pectoral muscle and indications are he will miss next week’s game against the Eagles. He is second on the Giants with 517 receiving yards and 47 catches.
With Smith out, Nicks said he saw the type of defenses he expected. There was a safety over the top on him for the majority of the game, and he would at times be in man-to-man coverage. While Nicks made a costly gaffe by not running a correct route on a slat that led to an interception return for a touchdown to give Dallas a 16-3 lead, he still topped 80 yards for the fifth time in six games.
Manningham was used primarily in short screen routes at the beginning of the game before stretching the field. He finished with 10 catches for 91 yards and four touchdowns, giving him 476 yards and four scores on the year. He caught a five-yard pass with 9:01 left in the third quarter to cut Dallas’ lead to 26-13.
Barden, the second-year receiver who has struggled to receive playing time, had his most productive day as a pro with three catches for 34 yards. His injury to his right ankle ended his day early and left him in crutches and a walking boot after the game. He praised Smith for being helpful to the Giants fellow receivers.
“He’s a huge part of this offense, he’s a great teacher, he’s done things to make sure that everybody else is up to speed and when we’re out there we got his confidence and we have each other’s back,” Barden said. “We know we’re going to do the best we can to perform in his absence.”
Manning was complimentary of his receiving unit after the game.
“I thought guys did well. They filled in and it wasn’t a case of guys running wrong routes,” Manning said. “. When you have a guy like Steve, who is so good in the slot, you have great confidence with him reading his body in game situations and you have a new guy there it is going to be a little off here or there with some things. But we have to learn. We have some young guys. I thought Mario played really well playing a new spot and did some really good things, but we can definitely learn a few things and get better.”