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Palladino: Waiting On Nicks Not Easy For Giants

Hakeem Nicks (credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Hakeem Nicks (credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

With a quick shake of the head, Tom Coughlin officially rejected the notion that Plaxico Burress would somehow ride in on his mud-splattered horse and save the Giants’ receiving corps.

Coughlin made his one-word proclamation Tuesday at the Giants Foundation golf outing, but this was nothing new. He offered the same opinion, in so many words, last year when his receiving corps seemed in just as bad a shape.

You remember those days, right? No way Eli Manning was going to become a passing force with Steve Smith flying off to Philadelphia, Domenik Hixon blowing out his right ACL for the second consecutive year in Week 2 and Victor Cruz still a question mark.

It was going to land all on Nicks’ back. Until, that is, Cruz took off.

So, really, is this year stacking up to be any different? Mario Manningham, the sideline dancer of the Super Bowl, wears 49ers colors now. Game-breaker Nicks, despite his own predictions of an early training camp return, probably won’t get back from a fractured right fifth metatarsal until halfway through the one-a-day (no more double practices under the new CBA) sessions in Albany.

And, not that Burress has anything left, but after putting that bullet through his leg in 2008, he’d have to step over Coughlin’s body to get another chance in Giants blue.

That’s why Domenik Hixon and Cruz lined up opposite each other with the first unit; Cruz out of the slot and into the unfamiliar wide position of a No. 2 receiver, and Hixon in Nicks’ spot.

It’s make-do time again. Or should we say same old, same old.

“Between Victor and Hakeem, I thought we’d be ready to go,” offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. “The focus would be on that third guy, where’s he going to come from. And now you’ve lost Hakeem and you’re waiting to see who the second guy is.

“Once that shows up, then you’ll look to the third. And the tight ends are all different.”

What Coughlin and his coaches have to hope for is that Nicks returns to his old self quickly and that Hixon continues to be the tough, reliable receiver he proved to be before the last two seasons.

After that, it’s a search for the next best thing. Or, better, the next great thing, like Cruz.

The field is loaded with possibilities, though it’s way too early to tab a young veteran like Ramses Barden or Jerrel Jernigan, or a promising rookie like second-rounder Rueben Randle as the next Cruz. Barden and Jernigan have to get more consistent. And the scouts’ claims that LSU’s Randle is “NFL-ready” fell flat on Gilbride.

“I’ve never bought that description of a guy in history,” Gilbride said. “He’s got a lot to learn.”

And yet, Cruz had a lot to learn before he exploded for three catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns in Week 3 against Philadelphia. And the Giants certainly got by with him.

There’s no saying that this flock flies as high as last season’s, at least until Nicks gets back. But the history is there.

The best part is, it’s only May.

“Hakeem’s always been a fast healer,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “Him missing the spring will give the other guys a better opportunity to learn the offense and be better prepared for the start of the season.

“We’ll have time. And once Hakeem gets back, he knows the offense. It won’t take long.”

Should the Giants bring in some insurance at WR? Be heard in the comments below…