With a game against the Cleveland Browns coming up on Sunday, the New York Giants are without their star wide receiver Hakeem Nicks for the third week in a row. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride has guys like Victor Cruz and Domenik Hixon to pick up the pieces, but there are other aspects Nicks brings besides his play on the field.
"You're losing a football player who's not only extremely important to what you do, he's invaluable just in terms of his leadership and his ability in the bigger moment to make the bigger play, so you lose that and you know that you're not going to make it up with one guy," said Gilbride. "What you hope is collectively the rest of everybody will contribute enough that you can make up for his absence to enough of a degree that you win the game. That's what you're looking for."
Aside from Nicks' injury, Ramses Barden suffered a concussion last week against the Philadelphia Eagles and will not play. That leaves the Giants with the rookie Rueben Randle, whose work ethic was called into question by NBC broadcaster Cris Collinsworth earlier in the week. Gilbride reminds everyone that Randle is young and he's improving.
"He needs to make some plays for us and he's going to be in a position where the ball is going to come his way and he certainly catches it well enough," said Gilbride. "Now it's a matter of doing things necessary to get uncovered, get open and you hope that he has the ability to do that. I think he's shown progress over the last few weeks and he's going to get a chance to...an opportunity and he'll have to make those plays when those opportunities avail themselves in the game, but I have a great deal of confidence he will."
Gildbride's biggest challenge for his offense is going up against Brown's linebacker D'Qwell Jackson.
"He's tremendous. He's unbelievable. He may be as good as I've seen in pass coverage. He does a tremendous at reading the quarterback's eyes and getting the jump on where the ball is going and they use him, even in man coverage, they'll use him as what we call a funnel player. I know their record doesn't indicate that, but we look at it and they're playing very hard. They put more pressure on the quarterback than maybe I expected. Again, looking at it statistically, they look like they're up around the quarterback. They're getting some sacks and I think their linebackers run very, very well."
After a stellar performance by Andre Brown against the Carolina Panthers, he and Ahmad Bradshaw couldn't seem to find a rhythm in their running game against the Eagles. Gilbride is still looking for ways to split up the carries between Brown and Bradshaw while trying to get David Wilson a chance as well.
"We expected it to be more 50/50, but as the [Eagles] game was going, it looked like it was one of those days where we wound up throwing the ball more and so Ahmad wanted to be in there more," said Gilbride. "We’ll play it out and see who’s having some success. Unfortunately neither one of them were having a lot of success. So it was no reason to stay, from a running perspective, with one of them as opposed to or over the other. It was really a matter of what were we doing? Well, we were throwing more and Ahmad, right now, is a better pass protector. We keep trying to create things for [Wilson], but so far, he hasn’t had success when we’ve given him a chance. So we just keep waiting for that day when he makes a play for us and we’ll give him some more."
Head coach Tom Coughlin said earlier in the week that the Browns' record should not be misleading and the game will not be a pushover. Gilbride also realizes this and hopes the team understands.
"Hopefully we see that on the film with our guys and they’re realizing… I think they do," said Gilbride. "I think they realize it’s going to be a challenge and they’re going to have to play at their best to have an opportunity to win."