Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Cruz Under Control

           Victor Cruz's long awaited return to the New York Giant's offense in 2016 has featured an entirely new Cruz the team hasn't seen before. Coming from a potentially career threatening knee injury in 2014, to a mysterious calf injury that sidelined him in 2015, no one around the franchise knew what to think of him this season. There was even speculation that he was on the verge of getting cut during training camp. After a torn patella tendon, athletes tend to come back as a shell of their former selves, and for a player like Cruz who relies on quick cuts and stops as a slot receiver there was an atmosphere of uncertainty for his career. 
            He labeled his comeback season as, "The Return," on his social media pages and by looking deep into the numbers his return has been indeed successful so far. Although his numbers aren't too impressive on the surface (just 27 receptions for 462 yards and a touchdown) he has had an ability to make clutch plays for the Giants all season. It started week one in Dallas, at the goal line Manning found Cruz in the endzone for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter that gave the Giants the lead. Again the next week in the home opener against New Orleans, Manning found Cruz on third and 8 down the sideline for a 35 yard catch that set up the game winning field goal for big blue. In week 3, the Giants offense needed a 2 minute drive to secure a win against divisional foe Washington and Manning found Cruz over the middle on third and fourteen for a crucial first down. Granted, the drive ended with an interception intended for Will Tye, but it was Cruz who put the Giants closer towards midfield and closer to field goal range. Week 9 against the Eagles, Manning found Cruz down the right sideline once again that setup the Giants inside the 5 yard line that led to an Odell Beckham Jr. touchdown. Again in week 11 against Chicago, Manning scrambled and hit Cruz for a huge gain that helped kick start a huge third quarter for the Giants that gave them a lead they would never surrender. 
               Early in Cruz's career, he was used in the slot and was considered a, "slippery" receiver due to his ability to cut and make plays after the catch. With the addition of second round pick Sterling Shephard this season, Cruz has been placed on the outside and is running more vertical routes than ever before. This can be to limit the stress on his surgically repaired knee with less stop and go routes and quick slants and outs. The lack of height the Giants have at receiver also plays contributes as well. The Giants three main receivers, Beckham, Cruz and Shephard, Cruz is the only one over six feet. Now, the Giants have Roger Lewis who has been getting more playing time since his performance in week 9 versus the  Eagles but his production has slipped since then. Anyway, who would you rather trust in a big play for the Giants, pro-bowler, super-bowl champion Victor Cruz or undrafted rookie Roger Lewis Jr.?  

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