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Looking Back On Hakeem Nicks' Career With The Giants

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Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images.
Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images.

So far this offseason, the New York Giants have parted ways with several keys players who have become fan favorites over the course of the last several years, including DE Justin Tuck and WR Hakeem Nicks. Such is the nature of the NFL, where the salary cap makes it difficult for teams to afford to give all of their stars the long-term contracts they deserve, and it often results in fans being forced to say goodbye to some of the players they have grown to love watching.

For successful teams like the Giants, who have won multiple Super Bowls over the last decade, keeping all of their stars in one place is even more difficult, and it was only a matter of time before that nucleus that brought two Lombardi trophies to the Meadowlands would finally dissolve.

It was especially tough to see Nicks go. Despite the fact that several injuries over the course of the last two seasons limited his time on the field and reduced his effectiveness, he was still a big-play threat whenever he was healthy. Giants fans will remember Nicks for his sure hands and his propensity for finding the end zone (save for last season, when he mysteriously failed to score in any of the 15 games he appeared in), and he has made several big plays over the course of his Giants career that will forever be a part of the team’s illustrious history books.

The most successful seasons of Nicks’ career with the Giants came in 2010 and 2011, when he was a 1,000-yard receiver and racked up a total of 22 touchdown catches (including four in the postseason) and established himself, not only as one of Eli Manning’s favorite targets, but one of the most explosive wide receivers in the league.

Following up a solid rookie year in 2009 that saw him catch 47 balls for 790 yards and six touchdowns, Nicks burst onto the scene in the 2010 regular season opener with eight catches for 75 yards and three touchdowns in the Giants’ first-ever game at the new MetLife Stadium, including the first touchdown ever scored in the new building. Nicks officially put himself on the map in that 31-18 win and established himself as Manning’s go-to guy in the red zone over the next few seasons.

However, Nicks would make his biggest impact as a Giant during the team’s miraculous playoff run at the end of the 2011 season. With one of the best postseason efforts by a wide receiver in Giants history, Nicks was a big reason why the team was able to make the historic run that it did.

It all began when Manning found Nicks on a seam route for a 72-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the third quarter of their Wild Card playoff game against the Falcons. Nursing a 10-2 lead late in the third, that electrifying play — his second touchdown of the afternoon — gave the Giants a more comfortable 17-2 lead en route to their first home playoff win in a decade.

The following week, Nicks was virtually untouchable, pulling in nine receptions for 165 yards and two gigantic touchdowns. The first, a 66-yard catch-and-run that looked eerily similar to his touchdown the previous week, gave the Giants an early 10-3 lead. The second one was a play that will go down in Giants lore as one of the biggest momentum-swinging plays in team history. With the Giants holding tightly onto a 13-10 lead with seconds to go until halftime, Manning heaved the ball towards the end zone on a last-gasp Hail Mary attempt. Nicks out-jumped three Packers defenders and snagged the ball out of the air, giving the Giants a 20-10 halftime lead that they would not relinquish. Nicks capped off his red-hot 2011 postseason with a 10-catch, 109-yard performance in Super Bowl XLVI against New England and helping the Giants win their fourth Lombardi trophy.

His next two seasons in New York — which would end up being his last two — were disappointing, as Nicks was hampered by frequently reoccurring foot injuries, and he was limited to only three touchdowns as teammate Victor Cruz began to emerge as the team’s No. 1 option at wide receiver. However, Nicks certainly made his mark in his five seasons in New York, and will certainly be missed as he heads to Indianapolis for the 2014 season. Giants fans haven’t seen the last of Nicks, though. The team is scheduled to play the Indianapolis Colts in their second game of the preseason, and will face them again in the regular season, when Nicks will make his first return to MetLife Stadium as an opponent.