Q: Some years, the way the draft goes, you get no receivers. And some years two big guys that fall into your lap. What is your sense of what these guys bring?
A: We are excited to have both Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden on broad. Both guys came in ready to work, caught the ball extremely well in our rookie camp and showed a good professional attitude for young kids. Obviously there are going to be some big challenges this year for the receiving corps, and I'm excited to work with both of those guys. They are going to be great additions to our team.
Q: Rookies often don't produce that much. Can these guys break that mold, do you think?
A: It is always hard to say at this point. I think ….you are correct and you look through the past years it is as difficult for guys to come in, certainly last year Jackson in Philadelphia, had an impact. You could argue that Steve Smith the year before – even with his injury – the broken clavicle – and some of those issues. Certainly when he was healthy he was a key player in helping us be successful down the stretch and he had an impact. So it really depends on so many factors – from a health standpoint and being able to make that transition. Because it is a huge jump, I think, for receivers. And so we are hoping that both of these guys can come and step up and be able to help us.
Q: Given us the loss of two starters that are no longer here, do you kind of need them to step up more than a normal rookie?
A: Well, it is unique in a sense that here we are going into a season with both previous year's starters having moved on. And I first want to just say that I want to recognize and commend both Amani and Plaxico. It was wonderful to work with both of those men. I wish them the best. Amani Toomer, obviously the all time leading receiver in Giants' history - classy, consistent performer, played a key role in our success winning the Super Bowl and I wish him well as he looks to find a new home. And of course, Plaxico and I have a very close relationship both professionally and personally and he is going through a great deal right now and I just wish the best for him and for his family first and foremost to get through this. And then hopefully he will be able to get back out on the field and be the dynamic playmaker that he was. Having said that, this creates great opportunities, not just for these rookies but for Domenik Hixon, Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, and Sinorice Moss. There are a lot of young guys that have varying degrees of experience that for the first time in a long time have a legitimate wide open competition to see who is going to be the guy.
Q: Where is Mario Manningham after a slow, injury-plagued rookie season?
A: That set him back – it would set back any rookie. That kind of gets back to Paul's question as far as the ability of rookies being able to come in and make an impact. And it is critical that they don't miss any of that time, particular in our offense. He did a great job toward the end of the year – he was primarily in a scout team role where he was servicing the defense and providing a look for the upcoming opponent. But he has really shown a tremendous work ethic meeting with me, meeting the Sean Ryan, our offensive assistant, going over the plays, getting himself prepared, spending some extra time. So I think he is definitely champing at the bit to be able to get out there and show what he can do and put it all together – both mentally and physically.
Q: What can he do?
A: The things that Mario brings to the table are illusiveness, a quickness from the run after catch standpoint. He does have very good play speed. He catches the ball very well. I think we all saw it in some of the brief exposures that he had in preseason games. And when we did get those glimpses of him, I think we all saw the great potential that he has. And so that will be the challenge for him to build upon that from a physical standpoint, and also get to the point where he's out there playing fast because he is not having to think about assignments or trying to put himself in a position -- where it is a process that takes step by step by step, it just happens.
Q: How about the leadership? You had these two veterans who were there and the other guys just looked at them and they would get something from them. Now you really don't have that kind of guy. How do you fill that void?
A: That is a great question because you look at a lot of years of experience, as I said, with both Amani and Plaxico and great success. You hit the nail on the head. Guys can look to them and see the way they are doing it. Not just from how to run a route or catch a ball, but from a work ethic or preparation standpoint. And I think it is really going to be a challenge to a David Tyree, who is now the seasoned veteran, is the senior member of this group. It is an opportunity for – as I mentioned, Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith, guys that maybe don't have the years but they have certainly played in some big games. Those are guys who are on the field and Sinorice – guys who were a part of this team when we won the World Championship. And I think, while it doesn't give them the years, the time …..so to speak, it does give them, I think, an added amount of creditability because they know what it takes and they have seen it and been exposed to what it takes to be successful at that highest of levels.
Q: Domenik played pretty well having to step in and a couple of times step in right away. When he gets all of this time to actually practice with the ones, do you expect him to be that much better? Do you look at that and say, "This guy was pretty good and he wasn't even the one guy?"
A: I think so. I think Domenik's performance and the things that he did last fall really speak for themselves in terms of him not just stepping up and filling the void but making some plays and doing some very good things. I think there were some injuries, some things that kind of set him back. Of course, any team at the time of the season when it becomes crunch time, is going to have guys who are struggling with injures. And he was no different. But I think for him to really have this opportunity to focus on that role and get those reps and if he can stay healthy I think he does have great potential for us as well.
Q: Steve Smith. He doesn't necessarily have the size but does he have the ability to become a focal point?
A: I think Steve is someone that primarily has had great success inside as a slot receiver. And he, in a sense, has maybe been kind of cast in that mold. And he is certainly, in my opinion, one of the best in the game as an inside slot receiver. But I think when you look at some of the things that he is able to do outside, the patience in his route running, the quickness, being a very smart player, someone that has shown great commitment this offseason in trying to really get excited about that opportunity. And he is very excited about the challenge of saying "Hey, I can be a legitimate outside receiver; …… and not always who is inside." Plus, someone who catches the ball as well as he does, you have to take …… into account and think, "Yeah, he does have a legitimate shot to be someone that we can count on to have some success, not just inside but outside as well."
Q: Does he need to have some work on his yards after the catch? That is the number that looks ---
A: Well, that is a number and I think the other number – I was watching online – I was ……….one of the things he needs to work on with the Giants is ball security. He has a couple of fumbles. He put the ball on the ground, which is an absolute sin. And so obviously that would be something ……….as well, is not let the ball on the ground.
Q: Two new rookies – they don't look like rookie receivers.
A: No question. Obviously with Barden, with his size – you look at him – we are looking at tape as a staff and there is special teams. He is on the punt team as one of the wings and gosh, he looks like a tight end. And he is very physically developed. And then of course, Hakeem, while he might not have the height, he is very solid, very strong in his core; and of course the enormous hands. I think you all saw how well he can catch the football. So it is exciting to be able to have two young men that obviously have a ways to go in learning the game and learning our system, but from a physical standpoint you do see a lot of the tools that will serve them well down the road.