Inside Slant: Untested Widereceivers

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As the Giants ready for their season-opener Sunday against Washington at Giants Stadium, they do so with about as untested a wide receiver corps as possible. Once it became apparent very early this offseason that New York would be without both regular starters – Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer – the race was on to see who would and could replace them.

More than six months later, the ‘winners' of said race – Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith – haven't exactly established themselves as dependable game-breakers. Hixon has great speed and explosiveness, but had a very quiet training camp and exhibition slate.

Same goes for the more deliberate but supposedly surer-handed Smith, whose lowlights of the summer included a deep dropped pass in practice followed by one against the Jets.

This isn't to say that the two can't handle the job, because the jury is certainly still out. But it is to say that they haven't done a whole lot to dissuade those cynics that believe they're only number three-type receivers.

What their lack of production has done is open the door for some younger players, most especially and impressively top pick Hakeem Nicks. He really busted onto the map during the penultimate day of training camp when he officially shook off a nagging hamstring injury and posted his best practice performance of the summer. Five days later he notched two TDs against the Jets and he hasn't slowed up since. There will be packages on opening day that includes Nicks as the third receiver.

The wildcard in New York's WR equation is most certainly Mario Manningham. He's certainly struggled with the playbook and inconsistency, but also showed plenty enough promise, speed and athleticism that the Giants remain excited about their third-round pick from 2008. It's not a stretch to say that he could be the most important WR on the roster.

Another high-end player is 6-6 rookie Ramses Barden. While he's not on board to be the run-down-the-sidelines deep threat that many expected, he certainly gives them huge mismatches in the middle of the field. He was also a star of camp, although his production in the preseason games wasn't much to write home about.

While the club's release of David Tyree generated a lot of headlines, he was basically replaced on the roster by a better version of himself. Derek Hagan, who came to New York with the bad rap of having questionable hands, caught basically everything thrown his way from June on. Factor in that he's faster than Tyree and can contribute on special teams as well, and you could see that keeping the former Dolphin Hagan over Tyree was basically a no-brainer for New York's brass.

Not so was the decision to keep a seventh wideout, Sinorice Moss. His roster status heading into the preseason finale was still in doubt, but after he caught two TD passes in New England, he clearly earned his spot.

Now we all know there's a lot more to an offense than just its receivers. But with perhaps the game's best OL, which includes two Pro Bowlers (Chris Snee, Shaun O'Hara), a Pro Bowl QB (Eli Manning), and one of the game's biggest bruising RBs (Brandon Jacobs), it's easy to see why everyone has and continues to pay so much attention to New York's receivers.

Factor in that their first test is a very aggressive, stout Redskins defense and you can see what all the fuss is about. In DeAngelo Hall, Carlos Rogers and Fred Smoot, this might just be the best trio of cornerbacks the Giants WRs will face all season long.

Add to that the O-line's challenge of trying to stop Washington mammoth DT Albert Haynesworth in the middle of the defense and the Giants offense is certainly going to have to come to play.

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