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Giants have a nice catch in WR Smith


01:00 AM CDT on Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Amani Toomer is the all-time leading receiver of the New York Giants, and Plaxico Burress is the face of their downfield passing game.


Eli Manning looks to Toomer for plays and Burress for the big plays. So they are the weekly focus of defensive game plans against the defending Super Bowl champions.


But neither leads the team in receiving. That honor belongs to slot receiver Steve Smith, who has evolved into a favorite of Manning when the quarterback needs a play to keep a drive alive.


Smith has 29 receptions – one more than Burress and seven more than Toomer – but more important, he ranks fourth in the NFC and eighth in the NFL in third-down catches with 12.


Defenses tend to double up on Burress, so Smith generally draws a lesser coverage player in the slot and works the middle of the field, where his lankier teammates Burress and Toomer are less comfortable.


When the Giants were in catch-up mode a few weeks back against the Cleveland Browns, Smith became the focal point of the offense with nine catches for 94 yards. He had a seven-catch, 60-yard performance in a tight game with the Cincinnati Bengals.


Manning isn't going to force the ball to Burress and Toomer on the flank when he has Smith roaming around the middle. That helps explain why Manning has thrown interceptions in only two of New York's seven games this season.


Rookie Orlando Scandrick handles the slot responsibilities for the Cowboys, so he'll have a healthy dose of Smith on Sunday. Scandrick has a speed advantage on Smith, but slot play is all about quickness.


The ability to gain separation on a 5-yard curl route on third down is more important for a slot receiver than having the 4.3 speed to blow past a defender.


Manning has Burress for the deep routes. He needs Smith for the short ones, and Smith has delivered.


I was wondering what his 3rd down stats were compared to the league...nice job Smith!



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