As most of you know, New York Giants wide receiver Steve Smith strained his pectoral muscle during practice Thursday and his status for Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys is up in the air. Mario Manningham will obviously replace him in the starting lineup, but it will be tough to make up for his production. Smith has killed the Cowboys over the past two seasons.
It looks like Ramses Barden will be the third receiver if Smith's not ready to go. As coach Tom Coughlin pointed out earlier today, it will be a huge opportunity for Barden, a player who's long on potential but has been short on production. With the way Mike Jenkins has played cornerback for the Cowboys, this might be a good week for Barden to get a look. Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride didn't sound hopeful that Smith would be on the field Sunday.
"He's the most polished receiver we have," Gilbride said. "He's a guy who has really earned the respect of the defense to such a point that so many of the things they do are designed to stop him. I think people basically have said it's hard to cover him one-on-one inside so people have committed other people and additional resources ... so that either opens up running opportunities for us or passing opportunities for other people. It's a huge loss, but we'll make do."
If Smith's only out for a game or two, I think the Giants will be fine. But if this is an extended absence, it could eventually hurt this offense. Hakeem Nicks has become the Giants' home-run threat, but Smith's still one of the big-time clutch receivers in the league. On third down, Eli Manning's almost always looking for Smith.
I guess at this point we shouldn't doubt the Giants' ability to compensate for injured players, though. We've seen what they've done in Mathias Kiwanuka's absence. Now, it's time to see if the offense can flourish without a Pro Bowl wide receiver.