Giants fans have been drooling over the chance to see what Ramses Barden can do since the 6-6 receiver was drafted out of Cal Poly last spring. He put on an impressive show in training camp with a series of one-handed catches and leaping grabs, and the expectations were that he would become a weapon during the regular season.
But it hasn't worked out that way. Barden has been activated only twice this season, and not since Week 3. He's run one offensive play - at Tampa Bay - and did not have the ball thrown to him.
Now that the Giants are eliminated from playoff contention, Sunday's game against the Vikings would seem like the perfect spot to play Barden and see what he can do. But Tom Coughlin said that isn't necessary.
"We have seen plenty on the practice field," he said with a smile that let everyone know it's plenty good. "We are looking forward, believe me, to spending a lot of time with Barden. I think he has shown us, in the scout squad, as much as Mario [Manningham] did a year ago, that there is a lot to work with there. And we are excited about that."
So, too, is Barden.
"I'd like to get a chance," he said. "I've been working hard this season, trying to stay prepared and in the books, trying to show the effort and commitment that the coaches are looking for. If the opportunity presents itself this week, I'm going to be prepared for it. It's the last game of the season and I'm as hungry as anybody else."
Given that he came from a small college, there was plenty of concern about whether Barden could make the jump to the NFL. Some of that dissipated with his performance in training camp. But even now, he says it's the off-the-field differences he's trying to keep up with.
"It's the professionalism of the job, the commitment, the time in the meeting rooms," Barden said. "On-the-field stuff, it's still football."
Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said Barden has "popped" in practices working for the scout team, but it's hard to assess his development from just that. "It seems he's a bright guy who has picked up what we're doing," Gilbride said. "Unfairly, to his point of view, he hasn't had a chance to do a lot."
Manningham is listed as questionable with a shoulder injury even though he practiced fully Friday. If the Giants decide to rest him and the injury that has been bugging him for most of the season, it could mean a chance for Barden to dress.
Even without actual playing time, Barden believes he has improved. And he's spoken with Manningham, who was in a similar holding pattern last season as a scout-team player. "Me and Mario, we're real tight," Barden said. "He shoots me information and advice. Coming from where he was last year, he felt like he struggled, he wasn't as happy as he would have liked to have been. So he's always there making sure I'm taking the steps I need to be prepared when my opportunity comes."
Barden hopes to make an impact on the 2010 Giants. "That's my goal,'' he said, "and that's the confidence I have that when the  season comes around, I'll be one of those guys that they're looking for to make consistent contributions and make plays."
Notes & quotes: Besides RB Brandon Jacobs (knee) and CB Aaron Ross (hamstring) on injured reserve, DT Chris Canty (knee), CB Corey Webster (knee) and T Kareem McKenzie (knee) are out. RB Ahmad Bradshaw (ankles/foot) is questionable.