EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Hakeem Nicks entered the 2013 season with 27 career touchdown receptions, one shy of tying Mark Bavaro for 10th on the Giants' career list. One game before midseason, he still trails the former standout tight end.
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Making the Connection
David Baas on IR
In the Giants' victory Monday night over the Minnesota Vikings, Nicks was targeted 10 times by Eli Manning – but caught only two passes.
So perhaps it was no surprise today that coach Tom Coughlin was forcefully blunt when he was asked about the fifth-year receiver at his news conference.
"He's got to improve," said Coughlin, whose team will face the Eagles in Philadelphia on Sunday. "He's got to get better. He's got to get to a point where the reliability factor is there as strongly as it always has been. Has it been there up to this point? No, but we're saying let's work. Let's get back to work and get this done. We count on this guy."
When he met the media, Coughlin hadn't yet had an opportunity to discuss Monday night's performance with Nicks, who failed to catch some passes that normally would be secured in his oversized hands.
"The competitor that he is, he's very much aware," Coughlin said. "Quite frankly, he's always gobbled those balls up. Explanation? I wouldn't offer an excuse, and I'm sure he wouldn't, either."
Later at his locker, Nicks did not ask for forgiveness. That was primarily due to the fact that he believes he's the same receiver he's always been.
"I don't feel like my game is too much different from what it's been in the past," Nicks said. "People just put more significance on it due to what kind of year it is for me, they just put a little more emphasis on that. I think I'm still playing the game the way I've been playing it."
Nicks was referring to the fact that he will be a free agent after the season. That has led to speculation that because his fellow starting receiver, Victor Cruz, received a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract in July, that Nicks can't help but think about what awaits him.
Not so, insists Nicks.
"That's out of my head," Nicks said. "I understand how this thing goes."
So does Coughlin, who said he is not concerned that Nicks has "big picture" thoughts in his head.
"I'm not," Coughlin said. "Anybody who thinks that way, fundamentally, you better take care of your business on the field. You better get your job done to the fullest of your ability."
Nicks has a big supporter in Manning.
"I don't see anything different," Manning said. "I think he's made a lot of big plays for us and hopefully he'll continue to do that.
"I'm not worried about him. He'll be ready this week and he'll make the catches, make all the plays and look forward to having a big game."
Another popular theory about Nicks is that his unusually high number of drops is due to the dislocated finger he suffered early in the season. Again, Nicks disagrees.
"Physically I feel good," Nicks said. "I feel real good, no issues. I just want to make sure I stay feeling like this coming up on Week 8 now. The halfway mark is there."
So what's behind the drops, which were previously not a regular occurrence for Nicks?
"As a receiver, that happens," he said. "You don't want it to happen, you aren't perfect, you want to catch every one, I know I do. But it doesn't happen like that. Sometimes you have games where some are just a little bit out of your reach and you can't pull it in. I understand that. I don't get down on myself about it. You have to be a pro about it and just bounce back."
That's what Coughlin and the Giants are counting on. They'll take a duplication of his first game against the Eagles, against whom Nicks caught nine passes for 142 yards.
"I have great confidence in him and trust and know that he's going to make plays for us and do a good job," Manning said. "Last time he had a big game versus these guys, a bunch of catches. Hopefully, he can come out there, play great and have a bunch of catches and run our offense smoothly.
"I think he's ready. I think he wants to go out there and play well. I think he knew last week we missed some on a go-route, but then had a couple of drops on some slants and stuff. He knows that, but he came back and made some plays for us."
"I'm going to always be there," Nicks said. "I always feel like I can. Every game doesn't always go your way, but you just have to keep punching, keep fighting and eventually in the end you will come out on top."
QUICK HITS >>
- Running backs David Wilson (neck) and Brandon Jacobs (hamstring), linebacker Spencer Paysinger (ankle) and defensive tackle Shaun Rogers (knee) did not participate in the Giants' walk-thru practice on Wednesday. Wilson has already been declared out of the game.
Cornerbacks Corey Webster (groin), Terrell Thomas (knee) and Jayron Hosley (hamstring) and tight end Adrien Robinson (foot) were listed as limited.
- The Giants today placed center David Baas on season-ending injured reserve with a knee injury he suffered Monday night.
"It's a very unfortunate thing," coach Tom Coughlin said of Baas. "I feel bad for David. I'm trying to get his spirits up. He's down. It's a very frustrating outcome to the season for him."
Baas will replaced by Jim Cordle, who started the three games Baas missed earlier in the season.
"He's done an outstanding job," Coughlin said of Cordle. "Originally, he started to play, then Baas came back, then he had to go in for him during the course of the game, as well. He's very smart. He keeps up with everything. He's prepared to go. He has a nice demeanor about him, in terms of going into the game at whatever point. We would hope that would continue."
- Coughlin said he expected Michael Vick to start at quarterback for the Eagles.