EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Hakeem Nicks is one of the keys, if not the biggest key, to the Giants' fate in 2013.
But in a split-second, Rueben Randle could instead become the biggest factor.
We found that out Sunday, when Nicks looked great during individual drills, but then missed the rest of practice after feeling tightness in his groin.
If Nicks goes down during the regular season (as he did last year), Randle becomes a starter, with a lot more responsibility -- something Randle wants regardless.
"I just want to go out there and make more plays," Randle said Sunday, prior to the second practice of training camp. "I think we left a lot of them out there last season that could have at least gotten us into the playoffs and had a chance to go into the Super Bowl. So I feel like we could make up on that and come out this season and make a lot of more plays."
Randle had an up-and-down rookie year with Big Blue after being drafted in the second round out of LSU. Overall, he had just 19 receptions for 288 yards. But he did show flashes of future stardom from time to time. In a Week 5 win over the Browns, he had a season-high six catches for 82 yards. And in the Giants' season-ending victory over the Eagles, he had four catches for 58 yards, including a pair of touchdowns.
Randle said Sunday that he wants to leave his rookie year behind and focus on the future.
"I feel like I've done everything, I can do everything pretty well now," Randle said. "I think I've learned from my mistakes and what I need to really work on, and just exploit those things to really get better overall."
With Victor Cruz missing the entire offseason program due to his contract situation, and Nicks sitting out OTAs after last year's foot and knee injuries, Randle got lots of extra reps during the spring. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride raved about Randle's progress at the time.
Head coach Tom Coughlin had positive things to say about Randle as well, following Sunday's practice.
"His spring was better and then he came back lighter and he looks good," Coughlin said. "He seems to be more serious, more intent. He had a lot to learn in that first year and it looks like some of the messages are getting through."
The 6-foot-2 Randle might not be quite as explosive as Nicks is when healthy, but he has an extra inch on Nicks and plenty of room to grow as a player entering his second NFL season.
"I'm not really looking for a certain position or anything like that," Randle said, when asked about his role. "So whatever they need me to do, I want to go out there and do it."
As of right now, the Giants need Randle to be a solid third receiver, and possibly a punt returner.
But in a heartbeat, Randle could become Eli Manning's primary weapon, with the team's success hanging in the balance.