The New York Giants were missing Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz on the first day of OTAs on Wednesday, but that just opened the door for the other wide receivers in blue to receive increased repetitions with the first-string offense.
Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan replaced Nicks and Cruz as starters in seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills, with newcomer Louis Murphy also seeing plenty of action. It was a chance for Murphy in particular to get acclimated with his new quarterback, Eli Manning, and while the reps were important to the replacements, Manning is going to need his starters back in camp sooner rather than later.
"You've still got to work on your timing," Manning said. "You've still got to work on the basics and everybody needs it. I need the basics. How many times have I thrown a hitch in my life? Or a curl route? I've still got to do it. I've still got to get those things and work them, but it is good to have other guys in there running routes and getting your timing down with other guys.
"That's how you look at it, but you'd still like to have all your guys out there. We all need to work. We all need to practice. We all need to improve on things."
Cruz is still trying to work out a long-term extension with the Giants, which explains his absence. The team would love to do the same for Nicks, entering the final season of his contract. Nicks had a minor scope of his knee done in the offseason, but that didn't explain why he wasn't accounted for, according to head coach Tom Coughlin.
"Yeah, sure I did," Coughlin said of whether he expected Nicks to attend. "I expect everybody here. Trying to get our team better here."
Until the big guns arrive, Coughlin is hoping increased reps equate to greater results in the passing game. Signed as a free agent in March, Murphy, 26, caught 25 passes for 336 yards and a touchdown last season for the Carolina Panthers. Drafted in the fourth round in 2009 by the Oakland Raiders, Murphy enjoyed his best season in 2010 with the silver and black, grabbing 41 passes for 609 yards and two scores His strengths are speed and stretching the field, on full display on Monday when he caught a 50-yard bomb from Manning behind the secondary.
Randle enters the 2013 season with expectations of an increased role. The Giants' second-round pick in 2012 caught 19 passes for 298 yards as a rookie. With the departures of Domenik Hixon and Ramses Barden, this summer presents a golden opportunity for Randle to secure the third wide receiver's job.
Jernigan, the Giants' third-round pick in 2011, will be under the microscope. He has just three catches for 22 yards in two seasons. For as long as Cruz is out, Jernigan will be the team's slot guy, but with an increased role comes greater responsibility.
"I think it's about time that he steps up," said offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.
It's just one day into OTAs, but Manning is already impressed with the replacements.
"Yeah. I hit Louis on a deep one," Manning said. "I got Rueben in there. I got Jernigan some catches. We're getting everybody in there getting them a lot of reps, getting on time with them. We're always going to get better. Whoever is on the field, we're going to expect them to go out there and play at a high level. So I think the more guys you have who are experienced and ready to play different positions, the better off we're going to be.
The Giants are also breaking in a new tight end. Brandon Myers was signed from Oakland to replace Martellus Bennett. Myers had issues as a blocker, but also finished in the top six among tight ends in targets, catches and receiving yards. He'll also need to develop chemistry with Manning, a signal-caller who has a knack for turning his tight ends into big-play threats.
"Each year, you're going to have challenges," Manning said. "Each year you're going to have new guys in there you're trying to get up to speed or you're trying to get them to perform and throw as much at them and see how quickly they can adapt and grasp things and that's what makes it exciting. That's what makes it challenging. That's what keeps me going every year.
"I enjoy the challenges. I enjoy teaching our offense to new guys and getting them to when it finally starts to kick in and get them understanding and you start making plays. They kind of learn one part of it and then you kind of go into the next part and you get more advanced. Those are things I enjoy doing."
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Jon Lane wrote previously for SB Nation New York. He is also a veteran MMA writer and has covered the New York Yankees for YESNetwork.com. He will be contributing occasionally to Big Blue View.]
Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC