DENVER — Roger Lewis Jr. said he was ready for this scenario.
“I knew one day this would happen,” he said.
This soon? With this team? Those elements made his confidence a little less understandable. Yet there he was Sunday night, the most accomplished wide receiver on the field for the Giants in their game against the Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High — Lewis and his 15 previous career catches in 18 previous career games.
With the ranks at the position almost completely drained by injuries — Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall having undergone season-ending surgeries, Sterling Shepard out for a while with a sprained ankle, and even Dwayne Harris, who would have at least provided some veteran experience in the spot, also done for the year — it fell to Lewis to be the No. 1 receiver.
“He goes from being the fourth or fifth guy, young guy, and now he is the elder statesman,” offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said.
There isn’t much competition for him in that role. The only other Giants receiver with NFL experience before Sunday night’s game was Tavarres King. Travis Rudolph and Ed Eagan made their pro football debuts.
Ben McAdoo fed into that inexperience this week. He told the players that everybody was nobody before they became somebody.
“At one point, no one knew Odell Beckham was going to be a superstar,” guard Justin Pugh said of the anonymity of the receivers. “I know those guys can play. We’ve seen it in the preseason. So I’m excited for these guys to get an opportunity and showcase what they can do.”
Lewis said he was ready for the scrutiny that goes along with being a number one, even if his title has an asterisk. He also said he was ready to face what many consider the top secondary in the NFL with cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib.
“[I knew] one day someone would be looking at film and trying to figure out what I’m doing,” he said.
Lewis also knew his teammates were going to be looking at him to figure out what they should be doing.
“It’s kind of different [in practice], because I was able to talk to those guys on the field,” Lewis said of the veterans’ absence this week. “But now I’ve got to talk to them off the field and call them and stuff like that. It’s kind of different. But I’m growing up and I’m ready to take the challenge.”
Said Sullivan, “He’s smart and, of course, the versatility is something that we’ll be relying upon to be able to move him around and help the other guys as well.”
McAdoo said he has faith in Lewis. “Roger has been around here for two years now,” the coach said. “He has the size, he has the speed, he’s been in the system. It’s not too big for him.”
Or is it? Lewis has made some plays, but those were mostly in concert with bigger playmakers on the field.
“I’m sure he’s excited to go out there and prove that he can be a receiver and not just a special-teams player, that he can play both roles as a special- teamer and as a wide receiver in this league,” McAdoo said. “It will be great to watch.”
Notes & quotes: The Giants moved Pugh back to right tackle, replacing Bobby Hart there with a matchup against Von Miller. That necessitated shifting John Jerry from right guard to left guard and playing DJ Fluker at right guard . . . The Giants had six players ruled out with injuries before they left New Jersey, so there were no surprises to the inactive list. The one player who nearly became a surprise scratch was S Landon Collins, who did not practice all week with an ankle injury. He tested the ankle before the game under the inspection of trainers, McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese and eventually was activated. The inactive injured players were LB Jonathan Casillas (neck), DE Romeo Okwara (knee), RB Paul Perkins (back), C Weston Richburg (concussion), WR Sterling Shepard (ankle) and DE Olivier Vernon (ankle). QB Davis Webb was the only healthy inactive for the Giants.