Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks has more receptions (306) and receiving yards (4,538) on passes thrown by New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. When he left the Giants after the 2013 season, though, there was a possibility he would never get a chance to catch another one. Nicks , of course, has that opportunity now after rejoining the Giants last week when Victor Cruz was placed on injured reserve.
"Feels good to be back in the building, definitely feels good to be back in the Giants uniform," Nicks said. "I felt like this is where I wanted to be in my heart. Business is business and it's going to play out the way it's going to play out, and fortunately I was blessed enough to be back in this position."
No. 88 talks about his return to the Giants: pic.twitter.com/duwykVLUT8— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoNYDN) November 23, 2015
Nicks said the fact that he spent years catching passes from Manning "helps a lot" in terms of getting acclimated, even though the playbook is completely new, adding that he is "glad to be back in this position again."
Nicks caught just 38 passes for the Indianapolis Colts last season and has not played a snap since being cut by the Tennessee Titans in preseason. What can the 27-year-old bring to the Giants this late in the season? When asked about that, Nicks referenced being part of the 2011 championship run.
"Confidence level. It's a new season, we got a six-game schedule," Nicks said. "I've seen this before and we're right where we need to be in this division. Just look forward to what's at hand."
Hakeem Nicks couldn't stop smiling when he met with the media. He's truly glad to be back here.— Patricia Traina (@Patricia_Traina) November 23, 2015
What role could Nicks play?
Coach Tom Coughlin did his best to build Nicks up when asked about him on Monday, saying "I don't think there is any question" that Nicks could return to being the player he once was.
"He is a young man and he does miss it and he has worked very hard to stay in shape. We knew that when he worked out here the first time," Coughlin said. "Yeah, I'm hoping that's exactly what it will be.
"Hakeem was the best player out there for right now, for the circumstances. Matter of fact, he was someone who we figured was in the sights of other clubs. Certainly he's been a Giant before, it's a different system. But we know the player, we know the young man and, quite frankly, he was, in our opinion, the best player out there."
Coughlin, Nicks, and Giants fans can all hope -- and they should. Nicks was a great player early in his career. Let's be realistic for a minute, though. If Nicks was still the same guy who had back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2010 and 2011 he wouldn't have been on the street looking for work 10 weeks into the NFL season. He has suffered through a myriad of leg injuries in recent years, and hasn't been a dominant player since that 76-catch, 1,192-yard 2011 season.
What is he now?
"Veteran experience, catcher, outstanding hands, he'll work very hard. He's excited about being here. He's missed the opportunity to compete, so all of those things he'll bring to our practices and our games," Coughlin said.
Maybe the Giants catch lightning in a bottle. More likely, they add a player with good hands and an already-established rapport with Manning who can be an option for them in the red zone and in some pre-determined packages. Nicks is not supplanting Rueben Randle or Dwayne Harris as the second and third receivers. He might bump Myles White and take the fourth wide receiver role, depending on how quickly he learns enough of the playbook.
"Whatever they need me to do, I'm sure they'll sprinkle me in and get acclimated," Nicks said. "But whatever the coaches need me to do, whatever they need me here to be, that's what I will be."
Whatever it is that Nicks can give the Giants it will be more than Cruz was able to give in the first 10 games. The 5-5 Giants are in a desperate fight for the NFC East title, and they will take any small contribution Nicks can make over the final six games.