In Sunday’s season finale against Washington, Giants wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan provided much of the excitement, scoring the game’s only touchdowns in a 20-6 New York victory.
For the third-year pro from Troy, it was a continuation of a strong finish to his season. The 24-year-old Jernigan, who saw an increase in playing time when Victor Cruz exited the lineup with a knee injury, hauled in 12 passes for 170 yards and a pair of scores in the final two games.
Jernigan’s strong finish to 2013 left Giants president/CEO John Mara wondering why the former third-round pick’s emergence took so long.
“I’m not sure why it took us three years to find out Jerrel Jernigan could play,” Mara said Monday, according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. “Sometimes you have to put younger players in the game and give them a chance. It would have been nice for him to get in a little bit earlier. That’s not my decision.”
In retrospect, giving Jernigan a longer look earlier in the season wouldn’t have been a bad idea. Overall, he caught 29-of-44 passes thrown his way (65.9 percent). Moreover, he made some big catches in his short time in the lineup, and quarterback Eli Manning was willing to look to him in key spots.
The question now is whether there are any organizational lessons to be taken and applied from this case. The Giants’ offense struggled all season, with the passing game an especially big problem, and someone who might have been able to help them didn’t get his shot until the 2013 campaign was almost over. It’s only logical to ask why Jernigan — who clearly was ready for his opportunity – wasn’t on the field sooner.