Is the real Jerrel Jernigan the player who caught only 13 passes in his first 29 NFL games, struggling to find a place in the New York Giants offense? Or, is the real Jernigan the player who WAS the Giants offense during the final three games of last season, catching 19 passes and scoring two touchdowns over those games?
That was one of the personnel questions the Giants hoped to find an answer to this season. Through three preseason games the results for Jernigan have not been good. He has only three catches in seven targets, the longest of which went for eight yards. Jernigan, only 5-foot-9, appears to be struggling while playing on the outside in the three-receiver sets the Giants have been using with increased frequency. He has mostly backed up Victor Cruz in the slot throughout his career.
"Not necessarily," answered Tom Coughlin when asked if Jernigan had carried over his end-of-season momentum to this preseason. "He's had days when he's done very well and he's had days when he hasn't. I don't mind saying the other night ... he did run by the defender, if he caught the ball, it certainly would have helped us."
Coughlin was referring to a deep ball from Eli Manning that it appeared Jernigan could have caught. It was difficult to tell if Jernigan slowed up or possibly short-armed the ball, but it was a big-play opportunity missed.
Is Jernigan, in his fourth season, on the roster bubble? That might seem far-fetched, but his size means he is not ideally suited to playing on the outside.
If Jernigan can't adapt to the role that is an issue for the Giants. First-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. has yet to play in a preseason game and it is impossible to know what the Giants will get from Beckham in 2014. The Giants keep giving Mario Manningham chances to prove he can be part of the receiving corps, and Manningham keeps doing nothing with them. Rookies Corey Washington and Marcus Harris have impressed, but have spent most of their time working against defensive backs who won't make their teams.
Where does all of that leave the Giants? Struggling to find wide receivers to take the pressure off Cruz, that's where.
"That's a continuous battle right now to sort that thing out," Coughlin said. "Who's going to be the playmakers? Who are they?"