Things have not gone well for New York Giants' wide receiver Hakeem Nicks thus far in 2013.
He has 27 catches, but his 3.85 catches per game is below his career average of 4.5 catches per game. Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings, Nicks was targeted a team-high 10 times and caught only two passes. He had two drops and barely missed a ball in the end zone that was slightly overthrown by Eli Manning, but could have been a touchdown.
So, what is up with Nicks? Is he hurt? Is he not giving maximum effort, perhaps protecting himself as he heads into free agency in the offseason with a big contract possibly on the horizon?
Here are some of the numbers that show Nicks' lack of production thus far:
-- Nicks' six drops, which have come in 52 targets, are tied for third in the NFL. In 2012, Nicks dropped only two passes in 96 targets. In 2011, he dropped eight balls in 128 targets. Nicks' drop rate this season is 11.5 percent after being only 2.08 percent in 2012 and 6.25 percent in 2011.
-- Only 51.9 percent of the passes thrown to Nicks have been completed, placing him 86th in the league among wide receivers who have played at least 25 percent of their team's snaps. That is the lowest percentage of passes caught for Nicks in his career.
Nicks is still explosive when he catches the ball, 10th in the league with an average of 17.4 yards per catch, which would be a career best. He is getting 6.5 yards after the catch, among the top 20 in the league.
He just isn't getting open as often, or catching the ball as regularly when it comes his way.
"I haven’t talked to him about it, but the competitor that he is, he’s very much aware. Quite frankly, he’s always gobbled those balls up," head coach Tom Coughlin said. "Explanation? I wouldn’t offer an excuse, and I’m sure he wouldn’t, either."
Is he physically the same player? "I hope so," Coughlin said.
Nicks did suffer a dislocated finger in Week 2 against the Denver Broncos. He told reporters Wednesday, however, that he has "no issues."
"Physically I feel good. I feel real good, no issues," Nicks said. "I don’t feel like my game is too much different from what it’s been in the past. People are just putting 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."
Is Coughlin concerned Nicks might be thinking ahead to free agency?
"I'm not. Anybody who thinks that way, fundamentally, you better take care of your business on the field," Coughlin said. "You better get your job done to the fullest of your ability."
Nicks said his impending free agency is "out of my head."
"I’m going to always be there. 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," he said.
Whatever is going on with Nicks, Coughlin knows the Giants need more production from him if they are going to turn things around after an awful start to their season.
"He's got to improve. 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," Coughlin said. "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."
Nicks has 10 games left to turn things around. If he doesn't, he could cost the Giants games along the way, as well as costing himself a lot of money at season's end.
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