For the Giants, the next two games are the slow churn to the end -- at best, a chance to play spoiler; at worst, a meaningless stretch before the offseason.
But for Rueben Randle, it could mean a whole lot more.
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On Thursday, the Giants announced that star receiver Victor Cruz will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Coach Tom Coughlin said Cruz is expected to make a full recovery in the offseason, but for now, the injury means a prime-time shot for Randle, 22, who has only three starts in his career and spent the season as a third receiver behind Cruz and an underachieving Hakeem Nicks.
Randle has thrived in the role, scoring six touchdowns in 14 games after scoring three all season in 2012. He has 37 catches for 571 yards, and his two-TD performance against the Eagles in Week 5 hinted at untapped potential.
"It's a good opportunity for a lot of guys," Coughlin said, demurring when asked about Randle's ascent. "[Julian] Talley's got a chance. He'll contribute."
"Yeah, it's a good opportunity. That's the only way you can look at it, too . . . I'm sure if Victor was right here with us, he'd tell you the same thing."
Another guy who might get a look is Jerrel Jernigan. He's questionable for Sunday's game against the Lions but said after limited practice Friday that he's "feeling all right. Coach made that call."
If he can play, Jernigan, who thus far has disappointed in his three seasons with the Giants but made some strides in a seven-catch, 67-yard performance against the Seahawks last week, is an option in the slot.
"Without a doubt, it's an opportunity," he said. "There's no pressure. I have to go out there and make plays."
Randle, who has a bit more on the line, echoed the sentiment that it's an opportunity for him and added, "But I'm just trying to go out there and just do my job. I don't want to add any more pressure to myself. I'm just trying to make plays."
Not that he doesn't have Nicks' expiring contract in the back of his mind. Randle said he's trying to prove he can fill those shoes if the situation calls for it. "I don't know if I have or not,'' he said, "but that's definitely the case I'm trying to prove."
Notes & quotes: After missing two practices, guard David Diehl (knee) did some limited workouts on the sideline during practice and is listed as doubtful. "Right now, he is just not able to go out there and practice the way that we would like him to," Coughlin said. "We'll see. Maybe another day will help."