- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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Through 11 weeks of the season, rookie receiver Jerrel Jernigan's lone contribution to the Giants has been one kickoff return for 19 yards. The wide receiver and return specialist admits that he thought he would have had more of an effect with the team by now.
"I expected it and now we are deep into the season and I should have learned the majority of the playbook if not all the playbook," Jernigan said. "I expect to be in there."
Jernigan, a third-round draft pick, said he thinks his opportunities will increase over the final five weeks of the season. The receiver has been getting more reps at practice with injuries at the wide receiver position.
"I prepare every week like I'm going to be involved," Jernigan said. "Right now, we have (Mario) Manningham with an injury problem and we're kind of thin at receiver spot. I've been learning the whole year and I feel more comfortable with the offense."
He added about the team being down some receivers: "It's time for me to step up and make some plays."
Known as an excellent return man, Jernigan had some fumbling problems during the preseason. The Giants instead chose to go with other players on their roster to field returns and the receiver didn't play in the team's first four games.
He finally played on Oct. 9 against Seattle on special teams and played as a receiver on Oct. 16 against Buffalo. His first kickoff return came on Nov. 16 against New England and he has not played since.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said Jernigan not being used in the offense is a result of a numbers game, with talented receivers like Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Manningham all ahead of him on the depth chart. That limited the amount of reps he would get with the starting offense.
"Not being in there, new player," Gilbride said. "He's fallen behind again but he's trying to get caught up as best as he can."
Jernigan said the challenge for him with learning the playbook was digesting how to play multiple positions, compared to just one. He said he has them down now.
Recently, with Manningham hobbled with a knee injury and Michael Clayton being put on injured reserved, Jernigan has been used more with the starting offense.
While it's still unseen whether that will translate to him catching his first pass, the rookie seems eager to get on the field and prove himself.
"We got a lot of good guys that can contribute," Jernigan said. "I sit back and wait my turn and when my name and number is called go out and make plays."
2dMorty Ain and Stevland Wilson