No, ask Ramses Barden
his goal is this season, and the Giants receiver delivers a simple answer: “I’m
here to be the man.”
“Plain and simple,” he adds. “There’s no explanation
It’s a goal that the Giants would love to see Barden achieve.
The team had high aspirations when Barden was drafted in the third round in
2009, but so far the king-sized wideout has only disappointed, with just 15
Yet when training camp opens in Albany next month, Barden
will have perhaps his best and maybe his last chance to turn around his stalled
career. Mario Manningham’s decision to sign with the 49ers has left the Giants
searching for a new No. 3 receiver.
The 6-6 Barden will battle veteran
Domenik Hixon, second-year man Jerrel Jernigan and hyped second-round pick
Rueben Randle for the role behind Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. It will be a
lengthy audition, too, especially if Nicks, as expected, rests his broken foot
for most of training camp.
Barden is the long shot in this competition,
so much so that he wasn’t even mentioned by Kevin Gilbride
the offensive coordinator was asked to assess the receiver landscape after last
week’s three-day minicamp. Gilbride said Jernigan showed “flashes,” Randle
displayed “down-the-field speed,” and even said undrafted free agent Brandon
Collins looked “really, really impressive.”
What did Gilbride say about
Barden? Not a word. And Barden was hardly surprised. He’s perhaps the most
unique wideout on the roster, with otherworldly size (6-6, 244) and solid
athleticism, and he routinely d***les in practice, but he has struggled to
deliver in game situations.
His performance in the Giants’ Christmas Eve
win over the Jets was emblematic of that. With the Giants pinned on their own
1-yard line in the third quarter, Eli Manning twice looked to the big wideout
who so often posts up cornerbacks in practice. But Barden couldn’t make a
critical catch; it was Victor Cruz who saved the team with a 99-yard third down
“I practice well,” Barden says. “The next step for me is
to carry that over with confidence to the game. Everybody knows what I can do.
It’s (about) being able to do that in September.”
Barden hopes that the
first injury-free offseason of his career will help prepare him to do that.
While he says that “there’s nothing like game reps,” he does believe that he
will be more comfortable in Gilbride’s offense after participating in all the
Giants’ Organized Team Activities and making several impressive catches in
And as soon as minicamp wrapped up, he headed to California to
do more training, working out with teammate Keith Rivers and a handful of other
pros. “It’s great to have a completely healthy offseason to build on,” Barden
says. “It’s great to have a brand new opportunity, a clean slate, essentially,
to make my mark.”
It will be a heated “competition,” Barden admits. But a
more grizzled Barden will be ready.
“I’m not going to walk around looking
over my shoulder,” he says. “It’s fun, and I can’t wait to see how this season
Here's a closer look at the training camp
contenders for WR:
BARDEN, 4th year, 6-6, 226
Had a "good camp," according to
Eli Manning, but there's still work to do, says WR coach Kevin Gilbride Jr.: "He
still has areas that he needs to improve on such as creating separation from
defenders and things like that. He's working hard at
BRANDON COLLINS, rookie, 5-11, 176
Signed out of rookie minicamp
and continued to emerge in last week's veteran minicamp. Says offensive
coordinator Kevin Gilbride: "Good speed, great quickness, but also picking up
the offense pretty quick."
DOMENIK HIXON, seventh year, 6-2, 197
Receiving corps' elder statesman
hasn't been tentative after tearing ACL for second straight year last season,
but possesses little upside. "Very very steady, very consistent," says coach Tom
Coughlin. "He is a tough guy. And, again, he is a great
JERRELL JERNIGAN, second year, 5-8, 189
Seemed comfortable in veteran
minicamp after struggling last season. "You see flashes with Jerrel Jernigan,"
says Gilbride. "That guy, he can help us."
RUEBEN RANDLE, rookie,
6-2, 210 pounds
Second-round pick was
billed as NFL-ready coming out of LSU, but Gilbride cautions he's still figuring
out pro game: "There is so much thinking going on. You can see it slows him
JULIAN TALLEY, rookie, 6-1, 192
Undrafted free agent was held
back because he missed some practice, and Gilbride says he will "reserve
judgment." But can you really rule out a quick WR from Victor Cruz's alma mater