Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Giants wide receiver Steve Smith has emerged as one of Eli Manning's favorite targets on third down. Much like Jason Avant for the Eagles, Smith lines up inside and uses his body really well to make key plays. Now I certainly think Smith is better than Avant, but the two play a similar role.
But now that Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer are out of the picture, Smith has a huge opportunity to make more of a contribution. He'll likely head into training camp as the starter opposite fourth-year man Domenik Hixon. Smith, though, would love to work at Burress' old spot. Here's an exchange between a reporter and Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride today:
Smith has often said that he can play wide and get deep.
Kevin Gilbride: Oh yeah, I have no question that he said that.
Did he show that in college and does his size mitigate against what you want from that position?
KG: In a perfect world you would always like to have a 6-3, 6-4, 4.4 guy. How many guys are there like that? Not many. At Houston I had a bunch of little guys that were extremely quick and extraordinarily fast. And they proved that you didn't need to have a lot of size to be successful. Larry Fitzgerald has proven that he can do it his way. Steve is a little bit unique. Now he has very good body control, he has got great quicks.
He has good speed. I wouldn't say it is as good as he thinks he has, but he has good speed. But he just has a knack, he just has a way of making plays. And so I'm not going to say he can't do it because quite honestly everything we have asked him to do, he has done. So he is going to get a shot; he is going to get a chance to be that guy.
It's obvious the Giants think Smith is better-suited inside, but he's earned the opportunity to at least compete for a larger role. If you've ever stood next to Smith, you know how slight he looks. And I'm talking height and weight. But the thing he does a great job of is finding soft spots in coverage and always knowing where Manning wants to go with the ball. I think the next step for Smith is learning how to do a better job staying on his feet after the catch. He's so committed to making the catch that he sometimes fails to receive the ball in stride. I'm interested to see how he performs on the outside during training camp.