By Sean Hartnett
» More Columns

To put it lightly, the New York Giants’ off-season left Eli Manning with a shortage of dependable receivers behind Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham.  Manning lost two reliable targets during the summer as Steve Smith moved on to the rival Philadelphia Eagles and tight end Kevin Boss signed for the Oakland Raiders.

Between the two of them, Smith and Boss combined for 1,060 receiving yards last season as members of the Giants.  Those expected to step into their roles in 2011 aren’t exactly capable of matching the Giants’ 2010 ranking of 6th in the NFC in receiving yards per game.  That’s why the addition of veteran slot receiver Brandon Stokley is a wise signing by General Manager Jerry Reese.

Domenik Hixon missed the entire 2010 season due to a torn ACL and Victor Cruz suffered a similar fate after just three weeks into last season.  While Hixon is capable of the big play, he is seen as more of threat as a return specialist.  Cruz, a Paterson, New Jersey native is considered to have a great deal of promise but is yet to catch an NFL pass in his career.  Big Blue’s tight end tandem of Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum would exceed expectations by collectively coming anywhere near Boss’s reliability in the passing game.

After completing the signing of Stokley, Manning will now have a safe check down option when Nicks and Manningham are covered tightly down field.  Like Boss, Stokley can hang around in the slot and rack up a good share of short yardage receptions to keep drives alive.  He’s the kind of ‘glue’ receiver in a passing game that allows Nicks and Manningham to get down field and varies the Giants’ aerial attack.

At 35, Stokley is not the 1,000-yard receiver of his prime when he helped Eli’s brother Peyton win the Super Bowl with the Colts.  That being said, he gives the Giants receiving corp exactly what they are lacking.  As Stokley joins up with younger Manning brother, he will be that same reliable target he was for Peyton and solve the Giants’ receiving woes.

He’s always been considered a clutch receiver and I guarantee that you will see Stokley make some important late-game catches this season.  We’ve all seen then vital receptions he made over the years as a member of the Ravens, Colts and Seahawks.  At season’s end, Jerry Reese will deserve a pat on the back for this shrewd free agent signing.

Giants fans – what kind of impact to expect from the veteran Stokley on the Giants’ passing game?  Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.