Eli Manning is in the midst of an unusual offseason so far for the New York Giants. It's not because he hasn't been asked to host Saturday Night Live this year or that didn't raise the Lombardi Trophy again but it's most unusual because he is not throwing to his two most dependable wide receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Both Nicks and Cruz have been noticeably absent from OTAs so far this offseason due to their individual contract disputes with the front office. Cruz was a restricted free agent this offseason.
Big Blue placed a first round pick levy on any team that would attempt to sign Cruz. So far, no team has made an offer for Cruz. Since then New York and Cruz have been working on a long-term contract but the two have not been able to come to an agreement. Cruz hasn't even signed his one year restricted free agent deal. The same goes for Hakeem Nicks who is in his last year of his contract with the Giants and has yet to reach a deal to secure his future with the team.
Because both Cruz and Nicks have been absent from OTAs it has allowed other Giants' wide receivers to step up and capture the attention of the coaching staff. Wide receivers Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan and recently signed free agent Louis Murphy have been quite impressive so far in the Giants' OTAs. They have also been able to develop their own individual chemistry with star quarterback Eli Manning.
Wide receivers coach Kevin M. Gilbride, the son of Giants' offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, is putting a positive twist on an otherwise sticky situation.
"It's been great for those guys," said Gilbride. "Those guys have now had an opportunity to continue to work on the skills, work on learning our offense in general and the detail with which we run our routes and that's really important for those young guys."
"When we have injuries what we've done a great job here with the receiving corps is having the next guy step up and do a great job taking over for the guy that was injured," noted Gilbride. "So for these guys to get all the work out here it's been great for them."
Even though Cruz and Nicks have not been present during OTAs, Gilbride indicated that it has not affected the Giants' overall game plan of stretching the field
"We've hit a ton of deep balls," insisted Gilbride. "It's actually been a pleasant surprise across the board with the receiving corps from the guys who were running with the first group to the second to the third group."
While both Cruz and Nicks are expected to report some time before the Giants before training camp the question of when it will happen still remains. When they do come back, they will be at slight disadvantage in getting back into rhythm with the offense.
"I think it all takes work and timing and development of your individual skills, of your grasp of the offense and the detail," said Gilbride. "I don't think it's easy, but I think those two, Victor and Hakeem, have the ability and the mental capacity to step in and basically play catch up like we talked about and get caught up pretty quickly."
Last season Cruz led the Giants in receptions culminating in a Pro-Bowl selection. Nicks, on the other hand, was hampered by a foot injury that cost him three games during the season and limited him to career-lows in touchdown receptions and receiving yards for a season.
As first reported by ESPN, Giants' quarterback Eli Manning expects Hakeem Nicks to report to Giants mandatory minicamp this Tuesday, June 11th.