Over the next few weeks I thought it would be interesting to take a look at 'Players Under Pressure' as the New York Giants prepare to defend their Super Bowl title in 2012. These might be players who find their roster spots in jeopardy. They might be players who underperformed in 2011. They might be players who are expected to step into larger roles in 2011, or players who face competition for their spots in the lineup.
When I thought about where to begin with this series I kept coming back to Ramses Barden. The 6-foot-6, 227-pound Barden will be entering his fourth season since the Giants traded up and made him a third-round selection (85th overall) in the 2009 draft.The Giants sent a third- and fifth-round selection to the Philadelphia Eagles to move and select Barden out of Cal-Poly, looking at his size and physical gifts and seeing a player who might replace what they lost in the red zone when Plaxico Burress shot himself.
After three seasons, Barden has yet to come close to justifying the Giants' decision. He has managed to play in only 17 games and has caught just 15 passes, none for touchdowns.
The 2012 season comes down to this for Barden. With Mario Manningham in San Francisco Barden could finally find himself with a key role in the Giants' offense. The third -- or fourth -- wide receiver spot is there for the taking, if Barden can stay healthy and show that he can put that big body to use helping the Giants in the red zone and by making some plays to help the Giants convert third downs. If he can't, Barden could find himself looking for work with another NFL team.
Barden does not help the Giants on special teams. You know that Rueben Randle will have a spot behind starters Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. So will last season's third-round pick, Jerrel Jernigan. Even if Jernigan can't grab a spot in the regular offense, his kickoff return skills guarantee him a role. If Domenik Hixon shows that successive season-ending knee injuries have not robbed him of play-making ability the Giants will show loyalty and give him a chance to show what he has left.
Is Barden a player, or a pretender? After three seasons he has played much less -- and produced less -- that fellow 2009 third-round pick Travis Beckum. And Beckum is a player constantly criticized as one who has not justified his third-round selection (100th overall).
Personally, I am not sure we know the answer to what Barden is. Way back during his first training camp he showed the ability to use his size and strength to take balls away from smaller defensive backs. In limited regular action, though, Barden has not shown the willingness to compete for balls in traffic. More often, we have seen him shy away. He has not shown an ability get open down the field. He has not forced the coaching staff to make him part of the team's red zone passing attack.
The Giants are patient, sometimes to a fault, with players whom they have spent fairly high draft choices on. Remember Sinorice Moss. After drafting Moss in the second round in 2006 the Giants waited more than four seasons hoping Moss would justify what they thought of him when they selected him, before finally parting ways with him during the 2010 season.
Thus far, they have seemed inclined to show the same type of patience with Barden. If, however, Randle, Jernigan and Hixon wind up ahead of Barden on this season's depth chart you have to wonder if that patience will finally run out.
Barden's Career Stats
-- From ProFootballReference.com