With Nicks out, Randle's turn to be 'next man up'

Hakeem Nicks yells after making a fourth quarter

Hakeem Nicks yells after making a fourth quarter catch. (Sept. 16, 2012) (Credit: David Pokress)

Hakeem Nicks has been downgraded on the day before each of the last two games. This week, there's nowhere further down to go.

The Giants' starting wide receiver has already been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Browns, marking three straight weeks in which he will not play. Tom Coughlin said it was a combination of soreness in his surgically repaired foot and swelling in his knee that will sideline Nicks, although the swelling has apparently gone down in recent days. Coughlin said the team is hoping that rest until next week when the Giants begin preparing for the 49ers will help Nicks.

Ramses Barden, meanwhile, has had no change in his status as he recovers from a concussion sustained late in the Eagles game. That means the Giants likely will go into the game against the Browns with only four healthy receivers: Established players Victor Cruz and Domenik Hixon and unproven commodities Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan.

Randle will be the third receiver for the Giants. He's caught only one pass so far this season and was the team's fourth receiver on Sunday against the Eagles.

"We're looking forward to him making some plays for us," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "He needs to make some plays for us and he's going to be in a position where the ball is going to come his way."

The Giants have had luck in the past replacing injured or departed starters, particularly at the receiver position. Victor Cruz earned his spot in the offense due to injuries early last year, and Hixon has been solid filling in for Nicks and others throughout his career. Most recently Barden played well in his first NFL start two weeks ago against the Panthers. Gilbride said that is a credit to the work that players such as Hixon and Barden have put in even while they were not key aspects of the offense.

Work, however, is something that has been a buzzword around Randle ever since his work ethic was called into question on Sunday's game broadcast.

"Some other guys who we haven't had to depend on a lot are going to have to play a lot this week and play important roles," Gilbride said, a clear reference to Randle. "You just hope that they have worked as hard as the Ramses Bardens and the Domenik Hixons and the guys in the past so that now that they're getting their opportunity they'll play well enough."

The Giants always prepare to have the "next man up" at all positions. This is no different.

"Collectively we've been able to get guys who probably most people thought would be a dramatic falloff, and there hasn't been, knock on wood," Gilbride said. "Hopefully we can keep that going. You do reach a point if you keep losing them, the point of no return. I don't think we've reached that point."

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