Dixon benched

<P>Jim Fassel gave Ron Dixon more than enough chances. That's why no one was surprised when Fassel removed Dixon as the primary kickoff returner before the Eagles game. Fassel did surprise some, however, by naming rookie fifth-round pick Jonathan Carter, who was signed from the practice squad, as his replacement. </P>

Fassel did a good job of keeping Carter a secret all week, constantly mentioning Omar Stoutmire, Emmanuel McDaniel, Will Allen and Will Peterson as the possibilities to take over for Dixon. Dixon was the Giants primary returner this season, but averaged only 19 yards on 34 returns. That's 2.2 yards less than his regular season average as a rookie last season and 15 yards less than his average in the postseason when he brought back two 97-yarders for touchdowns.

Heading into the Philly game, the Giants' 17.3-yard kickoff return average was 30th in the league. Carter, the club's second fifth-round selection out of Troy State, was excited to get the opportunity.

"Sure, I can't wait," he said Friday after finding out the good news from Fassel. "I just hope I can make a difference; make an impact." Carter averaged 25.5 yards per kickoff return in college, including a 95-yard touchdown.

The Giants may have activated Carter just in time. One AFC club was interested in signing the 5-11, 173-pound speedster off New York's taxi squad before the end of the season. The Giants waived Carter during the final round of cuts, but immediately re-signed him to the practice squad, where he's been all season.

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