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Searching for Steve Smith's replacement

9/18/2011

Brandon Stokley

Brandon Stokley

#15 WR
New York Giants

2011 STATS

  • Rec -
  • Yds -
  • TD -
  • Avg -
  • Long -
  • YAC -

One of the Giants' options at slot receiver thought his career might be over before Jerry Reese came calling earlier this week.

Another missed the entire 2010 season with a devastating knee injury. A third hasn't shown much since a stellar performance in a preseason game 13 months ago.

Yes, the Giants are still searching for the right guy to replace the departed Steve Smith.

Victor Cruz and Domenik Hixon didn't much to make anyone forget about Smith in the Giants' season-opening loss in Washington.

Cruz had a crucial drop on third down early in the game and Hixon had two catches.

Two days later, the Giants reportedly invited veteran wideouts T.J. Houshmandzadeh, David Clowney and Brandon Stokley for a workout.

They liked what they saw out of Stokley and signed him late Wednesday. They now hope he's part of the solution at the slot.

"[Stokley] gives us an experienced guy to play inside so we are excited to see what he can do," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said.

Gilbride then made it clear that he still misses Smith.

Allow the veteran coordinator to explain:

"We had wanted all along Steve Smith back and that was the objective, that was the hope and the expectation. But when that didn’t happen, then we have two young guys that we think can do it," Gilbride said. ".... The powers above me made that decision and we needed to add this additional receiver [Stokley]. I feel pretty good about [Stokley] because he is an intelligent guy.... I think he will bring something to the table that we are looking forward to having and what we were really in need of since Steve Smith’s injury."

Hixon was upset after the Stokley signing; he didn't think the Giants gave him the opportunity to prove himself in the slot a year after he missed the 2010 season with a knee injury.

Domenik Hixon

Domenik Hixon

#87 WR
New York Giants

2011 STATS

  • Rec2
  • Yds21
  • TD0
  • Avg10.5
  • Long14
  • YAC0

Cruz, who endeared himself to Giants fans with a three-touchdown performance against the Jets in the 2010 preseason, is embracing the additional competition.

"You just have to pick your game up," he said.

The Giants expect Stokley to contribute Monday night. He's had just three practices to pick up the nuances of Eli Manning's offense, but he's OK with that.

"I am not the brightest guy and I will be the first to admit that, but football-wise, I would say that I am pretty intelligent. I think I pick up on things pretty quick. Football is football and routes are routes," Stokley said.

Stokley is a veteran of the slot, which requires a combination of quickness and mental acuity to succeed amid the most crowded sections of a defense.

The 35-year-old veteran was at his best with Peyton Manning in 2004, when he totaled 68 catches for 1,077 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Colts. Giants fans may remember him as the little Baltimore Ravens wideout who torched their team for three catches and a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXV.

Last season, Stokley caught 31 balls for 354 yards in 11 games with the Seahawks, including 12 for 158 yards and two touchdowns in two playoff games.

Victor Cruz

Victor Cruz

#80 WR
New York Giants

2011 STATS

  • Rec0
  • Yds0
  • TD0
  • Avg0.0
  • Long0
  • YAC0

So he was a bit stunned when he didn't get much interest in the offseason. A potential deal with the Redskins fell through.

But, other than that, nothing.

Stokley thought at one point that his career may be finished.

"I just wasn't given the opportunity, for whatever reason," he said. "I don't know why. I thought I proved last year, especially at the end of the season, that I could still play."

Stokley turned the Giants into believers with a standout performance in last week's workout. Now, they hope he can help them counter the loss of Smith, who caught a franchise record 107 balls in 2009 before bolting for Philadelphia in the offseason.

"Anytime you can have a person who can move the chains and keep the offense on the field, that's pretty valuable to the offense," Stokley said. "Hopefully I can help."