The New York Giants had some travel issues this past weekend that you may have heard about, but that inconvenience pales in comparison to the loss they suffered Wednesday. Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith will undergo season-ending surgery on his left knee. He'd just returned from missing a month due to a partially torn pectoral muscle, but he injured his knee while being tackled following his only catch of the game against the Minnesota Vikings.
"Steve will not be able to play anymore," coach Tom Coughlin said Wednesday. "I feel bad for Steve. He fights his way back and then this injury. Our entire thoughts for the team are with Steve. First news was it may have been a hamstring or that type of injury."
Smith's numbers were down a little bit from last season before his pectoral injury, in part because of the rise of second-year receiver Hakeem Nicks. But it's still a devastating loss for this offense. We saw how the Giants fell apart in '08 after the loss of big-play threat Plaxico Burress in late November. I think they're better equipped to handle the loss of Smith because of Nicks and Mario Manningham's talent.
But there's no one Eli Manning trusts more on third down than Smith, who emerged as a clutch player for the Giants in '07. Manningham, who suffered a hip injury against the Vikings, will start alongside Nicks. Derek Hagan will be the third receiver and there's a chance former Redskins second-round draft pick Devin Thomas could receive more opportunities on offense.
I can't recall a team suffering this many injuries at the receiver position in one season. General manager Jerry Reese and his scouts have done a good job bringing in replacements, but they're running out of options. The Giants used their running game to survive the absences of Nicks and Smith. But at some point, they'll have to make big plays in the passing game.
The Philadelphia Eagles lost middle linebacker Stewart Bradley (elbow) and defensive end Brandon Graham (knee), so they're not playing at full strength either. But the Eagles certainly have more firepower on offense heading into Sunday's matchup in the Meadowlands.