- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Hakeem Nicks is oh, so close.
Giants wide receivers coach Kevin M. Gilbride thinks Nicks is on the verge of resembling the standout player he was two seasons ago.
New York Giants
"I feel very good about it," Gilbride said. "I think you can see each week it's closer and closer to these tremendous catches that we've seen him [make] in the past."
It's been a second straight unspectacular season for Nicks, although he hasn't been slowed by injuries this time around. Nicks underwent right foot surgery prior to last season and also was hampered by a knee injury, catching 53 balls for just 692 yards and three touchdowns.
This season, Nicks, who was not traded before Tuesday's 4 p.m. deadline, once again is failing to look like the player who dominated the 2011 postseason. He has just 34 catches for 521 yards and has failed to score. He's struggled to get separation and has dropped an uncharacteristic number of passes.
Nicks has been targeted 68 times thus far, so you can't say he's been ignored by quarterback Eli Manning. Nicks came close to scoring in each of the past two games, but he couldn't corral a ball in the end zone against Minnesota, and he caught a potential touchdown out of bounds last Sunday.
"The plays have been there and they haven't quite been made yet," Gilbride said. "But he's right there."
Gilbride believes Nicks' slow start ties back to his injuries from last year. Nicks is still working to get his body to move with the precision needed to make certain plays, and that's not a quick process. The coach believes Nicks is close, but he just wasn't quite up to speed in the first eight games.
"I think it takes time to get yourself into those positions," Gilbride said. "He worked at it during training camp. I think there's a subtle difference between practice and putting yourself in those positions during a game versus how you're being played by a defense and things like that. I think it takes some time."
The coach said he didn't get the sense leading into the trade deadline that all the rumors surrounding Nicks were affecting the receiver at all. He believes the drops and lack of success during the first half will provide motivation for Nicks as he finishes out his contract year.
"This is my true belief in my heart that he's getting closer to erupting and making those plays we've seen him make in the past," Gilbride said. "For a guy like him, as competitive as he is, that's a very frustrating thing to have his body in position to make these plays that he's made in the past and then doesn't make them. That would be incredibly frustrating for him. That's a driving force going forward."