Although most of the Monday morning quarterback chatter surrounds the New York Giants' questionable clock management, three key dropped passes on third down plays prevented the Giants from extending drives to put more points on the board and controlling the clock. Slot wide receiver Preston Parker, who is filling in for an injured Victor Cruz, was responsible for all three of them. Is it already time for a change?
Parker had struggled during the Giants' preseason action, but his familiarity in the offense and hard work during training camp earned him the key role in the Giants' offense during Week 1. As starting outside wide receiver Rueben Randle continues to battle a knee injury that seemed to sap him of his explosion on Sunday night, quarterback Eli Manning had no option but to lean on his slot receiver.
Parker's three drops came at key moments of Sunday night's loss, and these are the type of mistakes that can cost the Giants again in the future. His lack of production is starting to creep into a sample size that can be considered large enough to warrant an immeidate change.
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Cruz's timetable to return to live game action is still uncertain at the moment. Some reports have said that he could be back as soon as Week 2 or 3, while others have him out until after the Week 4 game. If Cruz remains out of the lineup for an extended period of time, the Giants should consider utilizing running back Shane Vereen in the slot.
Although Vereen's inclusion in the slot seems unorthodox at first glance, it might make the most sense. Behind Parker, the Giants have only one wide receiver suited to play in the slot -- Dwayne Harris. While Harris has proven to be dynamic as a return man in the past, he is raw as a slot receiver.
Vereen hasn't played slot receiver in the NFL, but he was often motioned into the slot and out wide during his time with the Patriots. Vereen runs excellent routes for a running back, arguably better than most of his peers across the NFL. He has sure hands and it is very rare to see him drop a pass. Perhaps most importantly, Vereen earned the trust of quarterback Eli Manning early in camp, and he hasn't done anything to lose it.
Inserting Vereen into the slot would also allow the Giants to become more multiple with their personnel packages. The Giants use 11 personnel -- featuring three wide receivers, a running back and a tight end -- more than most teams in the NFL. With Vereen utilized as a slot receiver, the Giants will have the opportunity to utilize a multitude of personnel packages.
If they want to use Vereen as a true slot, they could bring in Rashad Jennings or Andre Williams at running back. The Giants could also go with an extra wide receiver or tight end. In the latter scenario, the Giants will have the option to go empty backfield or motion Vereen back into the backfield.
The Giants can make things very difficult for a defense in both their personnel and play calling if they opt to use Vereen in the slot. While Vereen is a running back by trade, his skill set might make him a better short-term option than Parker, Harris and whoever else projects as an option in the slot.