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Giants' Nicks hoping for big finish to walk season

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)

With his contract running out at the end of the season, New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks hasn't had the monster year needed to get a big deal.

The numbers aren't bad nine games into the season. The former first-round pick has 38 catches for 570 yards. It projects to a roughly a 70-catch season for about 1,000 yards, the gold standard for a wideout.

That would be good for most receivers. Not Nicks. Even more troubling is his touchdown total. It's a zero heading into Sunday's home game against the Green Bay Packers (5-4).

''He's trying,'' offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said Thursday after practice. ''We'll see at the end of the year where we're at with him, but I think he's trying his butt off. He's working like crazy. I'm very proud of his effort and his determination to be a focal point of our offense, which is good. You need as many guys when those one on one chances are there, that they're good enough to win for you. We'll never be as good a team if he doesn't become that kind of player for us.''

Nicks has played better lately. He has had 11 catches for 100 yards in his last two games, and he seemingly saves his best for the Packers.

Nicks has 23 catches for 423 yards and five TDs in four career games vs. Green Bay. The one most remembered is the 37-yard heave at the end of the first half that gave New York a 20-10 lead in the 2011 playoffs, a resulted the started New York run to another Super Bowl title.

''You hope that some of those plays will unveil themselves come Sunday,'' Gilbride said. ''I certainly think it will, but you wait and see what takes place. As much as that I think he's caught the ball well, the cold weather hasn't bothered him when we've gone up there. He's got those big paws, he reaches up and grabs the ball. He's run very well after the catch and he's made some huge plays for us because of that.''

Coming off a disappointing 2012 season that was beset by knee and foot injuries, Nicks has had his ups and downs. He started well, catching five passes in the season opener for 114 yards against Dallas and he added four catches for 83 against Denver the following week. His best game was nine catches for 142 yards against the Eagles on Oct. 6.

However, catching touchdowns has eluded him. He has been targeted eight times in the red zone and at least half of those passes have gone off his fingertips.

''I don't feel like my game is too much different from what it's been in the past,'' said Nicks, who only had three TD catches last season. ''People are just putting more significance on it due to what kind of year it is for me, they just put a little more emphasis on that. I think I'm still playing the game the way I've been playing it.''

The most impressive aspect of Nicks' game this season is the big plays. He has nine catches of 20 yards or more, which is second on the team to Rueben Randle, the second-year receiver who might make Nicks expendable after this season.

Randle leads the team with five touchdown receptions, all in the past five weeks. He has 11 catches of 20 yards.

Victor Cruz, who signed a $43 million contract in the offseason and leads the wideouts with 50 catches for 714 yards, likes what he is seeing from Nicks lately.

''You see it in his demeanor and the way he is practicing,'' Cruz said. ''He is getting back to his old self and making those plays at practice. It's definitely starting to carry over slowly.

Cornerback Prince Amukamara said Nicks is finishing every play at practice in the end zone.

''He is coming off the ball with great speed and catching the ball with one hand, making those catches we know he is capable of making,'' Amukamara said. ''He had the foot and the knee and then the hand (dislocated a finger against Denver). He's been battling a lot, but he has been consistent.''

Nicks said the contract isn't on his mind now. He just wants to contribute, and a touchdown would be nice.

''I'm going to always be there,'' Nicks said. ''I always feel like I can. Every game doesn't always go your way but you just have to keep punching, keep fighting and eventually in the end you will come out on top.''

NOTES: DE Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) did not practice for the second straight day. Rookie Damontre Moore would get more playing time if he could not go, although Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka would start at the ends. ...RB Brandon Jacobs is ready to go after missing three games with hamstring and knee injuries.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Tagged: Giants, Hakeem Nicks

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