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Replacing Steve Smith, Take Two

Brandon Stokely is the latest to try his hand at slot receiver

By Josh Alper
|  Friday, Sep 16, 2011  |  Updated 8:16 AM EDT
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Stokely gets his shot at replacing Smith.

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Jerry Reese didn't actually show up to the Giants headquarters with egg on his face Thursday, but then, he didn't need to.

The team signed veteran wide receiver Brandon Stokely, a move that had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Hakeem Nicks has been battling a knee injury since the season opener. The reason for the move was the fact that neither Victor Cruz nor Domenik Hixon did a thing against the Redskins.

The Giants are used to getting strong production from their slot receiver and the lack of it was easy to spot last Sunday. Eli Manning struggled to move the ball through the air and when he did find Cruz open for a decent gain, Cruz dropped the ball and another drive went up in smoke.

That's not why Reese would have looked good in an egg mask, though. His new look is due to the fact that Steve Smith played for the Eagles on Sunday.

If Smith, who the Giants let walk away because they decided he had no chance of contributing early in the season, had missed Week One, the team would have been able to try to muddle through another week with Cruz and Hixon. But seeing Smith running patterns on his surgically repaired knee meant that the team no longer had any excuse for running out an offense missing an important part.

There's no way to know if Stokely will be as good as Smith, although chances are that the 35-year-old will be a downgrade from the player who will be lining up across the field come Week Three. It's a pretty good bet that he'll be better than a guy with one decent preseason game and a kick returner, however, and that was reason enough for the team to seal the deal.

He'll have to be for the Giants to avoid reminder after reminder that they made little effort to keep one of their better players in recent years from walking away to a rival. The big question now becomes why the Giants didn't feel it was necessary to make this move before handing away the first game of the season.

Reese made it clear that he thought his team was more than good enough to make the playoffs before last week. That conviction changed pretty quickly, which makes you wonder how strong it was in the first place and how good a job the team did of evaluating the talent on hand.

Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride seems to think the talent evaluation is a little wonky.

"We had wanted all along Steve Smith back and that was the objective, that was the hope and the expectation. But when that didn’t happen, then we have two young guys that we think can do it (in Victor Cruz and Domenik Hixon). How fast will they be able to evolve into the experienced receiver that you need at that spot where everything is happening so quickly inside? The powers above me made that decision and we needed to add this additional receiver."

All of that sounds pretty negative, but there's an upside. The Giants recognized a weakness and moved to improve it, something that hasn't always been the case since Reese took over the reins of the team.

A little more of that and there just might be reason to smile this Giants season.

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