Osi Umenyiora isn’t the only Giant looking to get back into the good graces of critics.
Disappointing fourth-year wideout Ramses Barden is also looking to use adversity as a springboard to success this upcoming season. Barden hopes he can finally make good on the third-round pick the Giants used on him in 2009, when they traded up to get him.
Barden joins a long list of receivers looking to fill the void left by Hakeem Nicks’s broken foot, which could have him out an estimated 12 weeks. It’ll be a tough battle up the depth chart, as Barden will compete against veteran Domenik Hixon, second-year player Jerrel Jernigan and promising rookie Rueben Randle, whom the Giants drafted in the second round. The Giants also have relative unknown, second-year wideout Dan DePalma, whom many within the locker room think has the potential to be the next Victor Cruz.
Despite the odds, Barden has at least one prominent person in his corner.
“It would be great if he did,” Coughlin said, when asked if Barden could replicate what Cruz did last season. “He’s suffered through a little bit of inconsistency. Some days are very, very good and others are not as good. He knows that and he is working hard on that. Hopefully, it is going to all catch up with Ramses this spring and this fall.”
Coughlin went on to say that Barden had a “very good” day on Monday and added the race for the No. 3 wideout slot — and perhaps Nicks’s temporary replacement as a starter — is “very wide open.”
Getting wide open was thought to be Barden’s specialty coming out of California Polytechnic State University, as he stacked up incredible numbers against admittedly inferior opponents. But Barden’s size (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) and statistical breakdown (a combined 124 receptions, 2,724 yards, and 36 touchdowns in his final two seasons) were off the charts. Barden was immediately looked upon as the answer to the Giants’ red-zone deficiencies following the imprisonment of Plaxico Burress, but it has yet come to fruition, as his career NFL totals are a miniscule 15 receptions, 174 yards and no touchdowns.
Heading into the final year of his rookie contract, Barden knows it’s a make-or-break season for him.
“Every year is a big year [and] there’s plenty of pressure, honestly,” Barden said. “But contract-wise and where I’ve been in my career — dealing with injuries and some obstacles — I think it’s definitely a big year. I’ll play like I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. That’s how I feel.”
He added — naively or not — that he doesn’t think Sundays will be that much of a difference if he’s able to crack the lineup because of all the hard work he’s put forth in these OTAs.
“I’ve done enough in practice over the years, so I can’t imagine it’s that much of a concern as what happens on Sundays,” Barden said. “I’m sure there will be some great catches and I’ll have some boneheaded plays. … My mark is going to be made on Sundays. I know that’s kind of what [my coaches and teammates] are waiting for. They were able to see some of that last year in practice. But they’ve seen enough of that. I’ve seen enough of that. I’m confident to do those things in practice [just as much] as I’m confident to do them in a game.”
He also has a vote of confidence from quarterback Eli Manning, who said this year’s version of Barden is different than last year’s version.
“Ramses is a smart guy [who] knows the offense and knows what to do,” Manning said. “Last year, I think he was coming off the [leg] injury. He never really got exactly where he wanted to be. But now he looks like he is running well and coming out of his breaks well. Hopefully he can step up and play a role for us this year.”
Big Blue notes
»Running back Andre Brown tweeted that his four-game suspension for using a performance-enhancing drug (PED) has been lifted, which was also confirmed by the league office. Brown said the suspension came about because he’s been on Adderall since he’s been in the NFL, but forgot to fill out the required paperwork this time, which is why he tested positive for a PED. The well-traveled back said he felt a great relief when he was reinstated: “I feel like that monkey that was on my back is off my back. Everybody was thinking I was on steroids. I think this training camp I might get a shirt that says, ‘Dre-roids.’”
»Coughlin said defensive tackle Shaun Rogers has been out with an elbow injury, but didn’t give a timetable for his return.
»Veteran linebacker Chase Blackburn has been working as the first-team middle linebacker.
»Left tackle Will Beatty’s troublesome back continues to keep him out of action. Beatty has not yet participated in any OTAs after undergoing retina surgery last year and also being hindered by reoccurring back issues this spring. In his absence, James Brewer has been lining up with the first team at left tackle. Brewer did not play a down as a rookie last season. Kevin Boothe, who started the last nine games of last season, is the left guard, while David Diehl, who’s bounced around between left guard and left tackle the past two seasons, will man the right tackle position that was left open following stalwart Kareem McKenzie’s departure. Mitch Petrus, Jim Cordle, Sean Locklear, 2012 draft choices Brandon Mosley and Matt McCants and rookie free agent Stephen Goodin are all trying to work their way into the mix as well.
»The Giants currently have eight tight ends on their roster, but Bear Pascoe is the only healthy one who has caught a pass for the Giants. Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum are rehabbing the torn ACLs they suffered in Super Bowl XLVI. Martellus Bennett spent the last four years with the Cowboys, but was seen mostly working on the sidelines during Monday’s OTA. Fourth-round draft choice Adrien Robinson is completing his academic requirements at the University of Cincinnati and can’t work out until his class graduates, per the collective bargaining agreement.
Bennett said he will be a factor in the offense. Bennett was a backup in Dallas last season, behind Pro Bowler Jason Witten, and despite his large frame (6-foot-6, 270 pounds), was never thought to be an every-down tight end because of his lack of blocking. Bennett said he thinks he fixed that by adding 20 pounds of muscle, including some inches to his biceps. Bennett said he’s well aware that Giants tight ends are required to do more than just catch, so he prepared accordingly: “I’m up to 291 [pounds] because I’ve been power-lifting since Jan. 1.”
He added he noticed the difference in his physique while being fitted for a suit recently and found out his biceps are three inches bigger. He also said his body fat is at 13 percent and expects that to go down to nine during training camp. “I’m looking like Atlas, not Professor Klump,” Bennett said, referencing the “Nutty Professor” movie.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8 for all your offseason news and notes from Big Blue.