Barden finally showing Plaxico potential

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Ramses Barden extended his long arm, snagged the ball with one hand and made a scintillating catch on the left sideline.

He got his feet inbounds, as well.

"Of course I got my feet in ... I got three feet in!" Barden said with a smile after the New York Giants' workout on Thursday.

This is exactly what the Giants envisioned when they drafted Barden in the third round of the 2009 draft out of Cal Poly. They also need the 6-foot-6, 227-pound wide receiver to make spectacular receptions when the season begins.

Barden has shown flashes in practice thus far, but proof of progress will come in training camp when the massive target must show he can perform when it counts.

Barden says he is prepared to fight for a spot on the field this year. He says he is better-equipped after spending a year learning the offense, opposing defenses and how to play at the pro level. Barden understands what to do on every route and all the responsibilities that come with each play.

"For me to understand my position, I have to understand the entire offense, and what the defense is doing to make sure I am doing that one thing right," Barden said. "There is more to it than just, 'Hey Ramses, go line up and run a fade, go run a curl.' There are so many things going on at one time on the fly that you have to be able to pick these things up and adjust and still play fast, still play comfortable, still play with speed, still dissect while you are running routes and making blocks. There are so many things that factor into it than from the place I was coming from."

Barden didn't exactly come from a football factory at Cal Poly. Adjusting to the pro game and a myriad of concepts was a challenge. Because of his size, the Giants envisioned Barden as a natural replacement for Plaxico Burress -- a playmaking receiver who could make sensational catches with his height and length. Instead of becoming Eli Manning's towering target in the end zone, Barden was buried on the bench while first-round pick Hakeem Nicks showed glimpses of being a game-breaker. While Nicks emerged, Barden played in just three games and had only one reception.

Barden understands he needs to show more consistency and approach every play with "that same effort and intensity and playmaking ability." That includes when he performs on special teams.

Giants quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan was the receivers coach last year, and he acknowledged there are times when receivers find it hard and uninspiring to play on special teams or on the scout team. Rookie receivers can sometimes lack the enthusiasm and stamina necessary for being on the scout team, and Sullivan was very encouraged to hear that Barden says he needs to display more consistency, effort and intensity.

"It is good to hear that he may have recognized that," Sullivan said, "which leads you to believe that he has got his head on straight and he is ready to do what we are all hoping he can do, which is be that big playmaker."

Sullivan mentioned Mario Manningham as an example of how receivers typically make a major leap in their second season. Manningham went from a total of four receptions for 26 yards in his rookie season to 57 receptions for 822 yards and five touchdowns last season. Receivers coach Sean Ryan expects a similar growth curve for Barden.

"The old adage of your biggest improvement should come between Year 1 and Year 2 is absolutely essential for this guy to understand, and he does," Ryan said of Barden. "To me he is more comfortable. In the second year, now you got a little more comfortable feeling with the offense, and now you are like, what are the details? What are the nuances? Now it is not just about assignments. It is about details and nuances and the things that will put you in even better position to perform."

Barden agreed and said he is ready to show what he's capable of doing with experience.

"As a competitive person, you want to be able to contribute and be able to play," Barden said of his rookie season. "You want to be able to compete and do all these things, but you realize to a certain extent all these things are out of your hands. You can only control what you can control, and what I can control is what I put on that practice field. If that wasn't enough last year to earn me time on the field, then I have to give it more this upcoming year, and right now I have to prove to the people evaluating me that we can't keep this guy off the field."

Barden said he will do whatever it takes to play, including special teams.

"Shoot, if they need me to hold on the field goals, I will be more than happy to," Barden said. "I want to help this team in any way possible."

The Giants happen to be looking for a new holder. But the 6-6 receiver just needs to keep using his big hands to snatch balls out of the air, like he did on Thursday, and continue to prove he is ready for action.

Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.