With stud wide-out Victor Cruz returning to the field, the New York Giants will go as far as the salsa dancing receiver takes them.
By Jeff Weisinger
Arriving at New York Giants training camp wearing a Michael Jordan No. 45 Chicago Bulls jersey, sixth-year Giants wideout Victor Cruz has just one thing in mind: “The Return.” Jordan did it in the NBA after a year off, Cruz is hoping to do the same.
“When Jordan came back wearing the 45, he wasn’t playing with people. So that is kind of the symbolism,” Cruz explained about his Bulls jersey.
(By the way, for those who have Cruz’s No 80 jersey, don’t worry, he’s still wearing No. 80. You guys are good to go.)
But if the Giants are going to return to the playoffs for the first time since their 2011 Super Bowl run, Victor Cruz will have to be the one leading the way. So far, all signs lead to that happening.
He’s returned to training camp on time since his knee injury in Week 6 last season against the Philadelphia Eagles, has progressed well in his recovery and should be ready for Week 1 against Dallas. Cruz was fielding punts in Sunday’s practice and moving up the field with no problems along with running sharp, crisp routes and getting in and out of his breaks with no problem – a great sign for the Giants and their fans.
“He seems to be doing well,” Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said, via Dan Graziano of ESPN New York.
“I mean, there’s no complaints, and he’s gone through some things that I think he’s maybe challenged himself and come out the other end. So, so far, so good.”
If the 28-year-old Cruz can come back to the form he put on display in 2011, the Big Apple could be in for one of the greater comeback stories in recent New York sports history.
With two of the first three games against divisional opponents on national television, all eyes will be on the Giants this season. The Giants have five nationally televised games this year, three of which against their NFC East rivals.
There’s no question that opposing corners and safeties will test Cruz when he returns to the field, but the question is if whether or not we’ll see the same Victor Cruz who helped lead the Giants to their fourth franchise Super Bowl title four years ago.
The key with Cruz isn’t going to be his straight ahead speed on the deep go-routes, but if he can shake off would-be defenders and slip in-and-out of coverage, much like he did his first few years in the league. Working with Sean Donellan, the Director of Sports Performance for the New York Islanders, Cruz could return almost brand new.
Via Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News:
“He does two things really well,” Donellan explained about Cruz. “He accelerates really well, 0 to 60. But he decelerates from 50 to 0 even better than that. So when you combine those, his ability to be going full speed, hit the brakes and change directions, is really his bread and butter. That’s where his magic is.
“The hard part of this injury is it takes a tremendous amount of strength and stability and power to be able to decelerate that hard and then re-accelerate again.”
When Cruz returns to the starting lineup, he will have the benefit of having a very solid receiving group around him.
He will definitely benefit from the attention that reigning Rookie of the Year Odell Beckham Jr. will bring and could also benefit with the amount of defensive attention James Jones and Reuben Randle should get from opposing secondaries.
He could also benefit from running routes in Ben McAdoo’s west coast offense. Cruz is not going to have to run a lot of deep routes much like before and, given how well his recovery has gone, Cruz’s ability to cut in and out of routes in the short and medium-passing games should see him get a lot of targets from quarterback Eli Manning.
“Looking back nine months, I wouldn’t have thought that I would be out there Day 1 of training camp, ready to go,” Cruz said. “The fact that I am, and the fact that nothing hurts, and that fact that I feel good, it’s just indicative of all the hard work I was putting in throughout the offseason and since the injury happened. I’m just happy to be out there again.”
The rest of the Giants and their fans will be happy to have Cruz out there again –more importantly, having him out there healthy.
“He’s come a long way,” Giants general manager Jerry Reese said of Cruz. “I still don’t think you’ll see the real Victor Cruz until he gets into some real games and starts to let his quickness and his instincts take over.”
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