Can Jerrel Jernigan Be The Next Percy Harvin?
Jerrel Jernigan has been a member of the New York Giants since the 2011 season. It took the New York Giants two years and 13 games to figure out how to use him. Of course, this kind of thing isn't exactly new territory for the Giants. Victor Cruz sat on the sidelines for almost a season and a half before we got to see him reach his full potential — the potential we always thought was there.
After more than two seasons of strictly special teams duty, returning punts and kickoffs sporadically and pitching in on the coverage team occasionally, he was finally set loose on offense in Week 14 this past season when Victor Cruz went out with a concussion (coincidentally, Cruz got his first shot at wide receiver when Steve Smith went down with an injury about midway through the 2011 season). What resulted was 19 catches and 237 yards over the Giants' final three games of the season, including two touchdown catches and one rushing touchdown. The culmination of this breakout stretch was a dynamic performance in Week 17 against the Washington Redskins that saw Jernigan catch six balls for 90 yards and a touchdown while carrying the ball twice for 57 yards, including an electrifying 49-yard touchdown run.
It was Jernigan's first real opportunity to showcase his blistering speed on offense and leave Giants fans scratching their heads wondering why former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride had waited until this point to actually use him. I mean, they had to have seen his speed in practice, and someone on the team must have been aware of what he was capable of … right?
With new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo on the sidelines for next season, will the offensive gameplan be incorporating more Jernigan? If the Giants are smart, they will. We've seen time and time again just how valuable multi-tool players are in the NFL, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Players like Percy Harvin, Randall Cobb, DeSean Jackson and A.J. Green are game-changers who can burn you downfield or out of the backfield, and having playmakers with that kind of dual threat is a big advantage in this era of supercharged offense.
Now, of course, I'm not going to make the leap after three meaningless games at the end of the season and claim that Jernigan is as good as Percy Harvin, because there's no way we can know that yet — the sample size is simply too small. But judging from his performance against the Redskins alone, it's pretty safe to say that the Giants have been underutilizing him for the past three seasons, at the very least.
Next season, with Hakeem Nicks likely to be leaving via free agency, the Giants are going to have an open spot at the wide receiver position that will need to be filled. It's going to be hard to replace the downfield, big-play threat that Nicks presents to defenses, but when it comes to potential, Jernigan at least deserves a shot to show us what he's got over the course of an entire season. Cruz got his shot and took full advantage of it, who says lightning can't strike twice?
That's actually a myth, by the way. Lightning can strike twice in the same place.