The New York Giants' lost season of 2012 was embodied by the struggles of wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who battled injuries throughout the year and never hit his stride.
Nicks, a first-round pick of New York in 2009, finished the season with 53 catches for a career-low 692 yards and three touchdowns. To put that in perspective, the explosive pass-catcher had 28 grabs for 444 yards and four touchdowns in four playoff games alone last season. So what happened?
Honestly, Nicks never had a chance. He broke his right foot during organized team activities in May and messed up his knee in week two against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (incidentally, he went off for 10 catches for 199 yards and a TD against the Bucs). It was all downhill from there, as Nicks missed the next three games and wasn't the same when he returned. He went five weeks before breaking 55 yards in a game and six games before catching another touchdown. He clearly wasn't at full strength.
Without the threat of Nicks going long, opponents rolled coverage to Victor Cruz and took away the big play from the Giants, for the most part. New York had eight fewer passing plays of 40 yards or longer this past season. Furthermore, Big Blue's passing offense, ranked ninth in the National Football League this past season, dropped a few notches down to No. 12 as Eli Manning, who passed for a career-high 4,933 yards in 2011, threw for nearly 1,000 fewer yards in 2012. Clearly, Nicks was missed.
"For him to be banged up most of the season," general manager Jerry Reese told Giants.com, "I think that hampered some of the things we were trying to do."
To his credit, Nicks never used injuries as an excuse for his sub-standard performance, but looking back, they can be viewed as a key reason for the Giants' struggles. However, time will heal his wounds, as well as the pain of missing the playoffs. And just like Nicks, the Giants will be back.
"He'll be back next year," Reese said. "He's really one of the linchpins of our offense. We expect him to get healthy and be back to 100 percent and be the Hakeem Nicks that we know."
Adam Martini is a freelance sports writer who grew up in Queens, N.Y. rooting for the Giants despite being surrounded by Jets fans. He proudly wears his Rodney Hampton jersey on Sundays during the football season. Adam follows back Giants fans on Twitter @Pegcitysports.