Giants’ Depth Will Prove to be Saving Grace

The New York Giants have been mauled by injuries through the first five games of the 2012 NFL season, but that hasn’t been a problem for the defending Super Bowl champions.

Sunday’s inactive list was about as long as O.J. Simpson’s rap sheet with the Giants missing starters Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Phillips, Keith Rivers, David Diehl and Rocky Bernard (per Giants beat writer Ohm Youngmisuk via Twitter). Backup cornerback Jayron Hosley and reserve wide receiver Ramses Barden were also unavailable against he Cleveland Browns.

Unfortunately for head coach Tom Coughlin, this wasn’t the first time this season that the inactive last neared double digits.

Bona fide star wideout Nicks has played in just two games this season, amassing 237 receiving yards on 14 catches. His three-week absence has been duly noted, but not for reasons that one would expect.

Instead of focusing on Nicks’ injury, pundits have been forced to focus on the uncanny depth of the Giants’ receiving corps, among other areas of the depth chart.

Nicks and Victor Cruz, who had three touchdowns Sunday, are usually Eli Manning’s top-two targets, as well as the top-two receivers on the depth chart. In Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the two combined for 378 receiving yards on 20 catches.

Nicks hasn’t played since suffering a foot/knee injury late in the fourth quarter. Since then, a multitude of unheralded Giants players have excelled in their new roles.

Barden, who had seldom showed any indication that he would ever be a valuable NFL player, hauled in nine catches for 138 yards in Nicks’ stead against the Carolina Panthers. The next week belonged to Dominik Hixon, who caught six balls for 114 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4.

It was rookie Rueben Randle who led the team in receiving yardage Sunday, posting a career-highs of six catches and 82 yards.

Whether each receiver’s success can be attributed to Manning’s brilliance under center is irrelevant. There are numerous elite-level quarterbacks in the NFL, but backups around the league don’t stack up to the ones that the Giants have at their disposal.

The age-old saying in football goes something like, “You don’t have to worry about the backup, but the backup’s backup.” While that statement continues to bear meaning for other teams around the league, the Giants continue to plug along despite a never-ending wave of injuries.

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