The New York Giants finally may have found someone to replace Plaxico Burress as their deep threat _ Hakeem Nicks.

In a game where the Giants projected starting receivers dropped some big passes, the first-round draft pick from North Carolina caught six passes for 144 yards and touchdowns of 22 and 71 yards in the Giants' 27-25 loss to the Jets on Saturday night.

"He certainly was impressive, and he is a guy who is obviously going to make some tough catches, and he really has been doing that," coach Tom Coughlin said Sunday when asked if Nicks might have moved up the depth chart. "That has not been discussed, but he certainly has put himself in position where he will get prime consideration."

Coughlin said he would have no problem playing a rookie.

"The thing about it is, what you have to understand, it's what is earned," Coughlin said. "It is exactly what is earned and obviously last night he played well. He certainly has earned a right to be a factor."

While Nicks excelled, the guys Eli Manning expects to count on this season came up small.

Steve Smith, last year's leading receiver, dropped what could have been a 90-yard scoring pass that could have put the Giants ahead 14-0 in the first quarter.

Seconds later, Domenik Hixon _ the other expected starter _ let a Manning pass go through his hands. It was intercepted by David Harris, setting up the Jets' first touchdown.

"Drops are a part of football," Manning said. "We need to get them out of the way and keep working on them and keep throwing, and some guys will make some big plays and make some great catches. Our receivers have been doing it all training camp, so it's a part of the game. You have to deal with some drops, but you got to keep throwing and keep working."

Nicks, the 29th pick overall in the draft, has really come on in the past two weeks of training camp. He hurt a hamstring in a minicamp early in the summer and seemed tentative in the opening weeks of camp at the University at Albany.

That's all changed, and so might his role. While he caught both touchdown passes in the fourth quarter from backup David Carr, Nicks also got a chance to work with Manning and the first team in the game.

"That's why we drafted him, to have a big-play receiver," offensive tackle David Diehl said. "He made some huge plays out there and that is exciting to see."

What must be noted is that Nicks made his players against the Jets' second and third-string defenders, guys who may not be on Rex Ryan's team when the season starts.

Nicks didn't seem to care. He was excited about the prospect of earning more time with the No. 1 offense.

"At the same time, I can't control the depth chart," said Nicks, who had a drop of his own in the game. "All I can do is keep on competing and we'll go from there."

The one person who was disappointed was Smith. He was 5 yards behind the Jets defenders when he dropped the Manning pass that traveled 50 yards in the air.

"I'm sick right now," Smith said. "Perfect pass, right in the breadbasket. In practice it's easy, in the game it's different. The adrenaline is pumping, you see the end zone and you think you're about to run to the end zone and you don't look the ball in like you do in practice."

Overall, Coughlin said his team improved compared to its performance in a 17-3 loss to Chicago the previous week. The offense moved the ball, but it had two turnovers and had to settle for two field goals when in close.

Except for one series, the defense was good against the run. However, it gave up four big plays, down from nine the week before.

Brandon Jacobs (arm) was bruised in the game, while fellow running back Danny Ware (ribs) had some soreness that concerned Coughlin.

The coach was not sure where middle linebacker Antonio Pierce would return to practice this week after missing his second straight game with soreness in his foot. Coughlin also did not know when weakside linebacker Michael Boley (hip surgery) would come off the physically unable to perform list this week.