Rueben Randle's first two seasons in the NFL haven't been bad. He has 60 for 909 yards (15.2 yards per catch) with nine touchdowns, and 41 of those came in his 2013 sophomore season. He knows, however, that the Giants need much more from him in 2014.
The Giants need Randle, still only 23, to fill the role of the 'X' receiver, the No. 1 receiver who forces opposing teams to roll coverage toward him. That is the role Hakeem Nicks filled for the Giants before his final two unproductive seasons in New York.
"I don't know about pressure but there's a lot more responsibility. I have to go out there and prove myself. Go out there and make those plays," Randle said a few days ago. "I think this is really what I've been waiting for. I have more opportunities and there's more plays to be made."
The Giants still have superstar Victor Cruz, of course. Cruz, though, is first and foremost a slot receiver. He is not as effective when teams can focus their attention on him. The Giants also drafted Odell Beckham in the first round, 12th overall. Beckham, of course, has been missing practice time due to a hamstring injury. Even healthy, it really isn't fair to expect Beckham to be the Giants' No. 1 receiver right off the bat.
That has to be Randle, drafted in the second round (63rd overall) in 2012.
"I'm confident in my ability. It's just up to me to go out there and get the job done. It's as simple as that," Randle said. "I don't want to add any more pressure to myself. Just go out there and play football."
Randle's work ethic was sometimes a source of debate during his first two seasons with the Giants. Cruz, now the veteran leader of the Giants receiving corps, has seen growth from Randle in his professionalism.
"Mentally he is locked in. Mentally he is ready to go and has been doing a lot of good things," Cruz said. "He is showing that he is ready to step up this year, so we will see what happens."
Wide receivers coach Sean Ryan also used the phrase "locked in" when asked about what he had seen from Randle.
"I think Rueben's whole deal, you look at him, the skill set, the intelligence, he's got that. For me that battle with him is consistency and I think he knows that and I think he's addressed it in this offseason in the way he approaches his job," Ryan said. "I think there's a difference there. I've seen a difference in him, his seriousness towards his work. I expect him to do well."
Randle did admit to trying to be "more focused" this season.
One of the major issues the Giants had last season was interceptions, with Eli Manning tossing a league-worst 27. Eight of the 76 passes thrown to Randle (10.5 percent) were intercepted. Many of those were mis-communications with Manning, which Randle knows have to be eliminated.
"The biggest thing was not being on the same page. That's what led to turnovers. This year we have to communicate with each other to make sure we're on the same page," Randle said. "I want to make sure the turnovers from last year are cut out. The amount we had last year was unacceptable. So this year we had to do something different."
Under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo the Giants will run a different offense. There should be more quick throws and fewer options for receivers, both of which should improve the turnover situation.
"I'm definitely more comfortable going into my third year. You get your feet set in and just go out there and play a lot faster. You have the confidence in the team around you and they have the confidence in you," Randle said. "I'm just trying to be an overall receiver. I want to go out there and get the job done."
The Giants not only want him to. They need him to.