Ordinarily I would be writing a piece about the plays that changed the game for the New York Giants. However a single instant not only changed the game for the Giants, but their entire season.
I am, of course, referring to the catastrophic injury suffered by Victor Cruz on Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. A captain of the offense, and the leader of the wide receivers, this is a devastating injury for the Giants. Despite a slow start to the year, there is no other receiver who has Eli Manning's trust like Cruz, and he is one of the few weapons on offense who truly commands the respect of every defense the Giants play.
Cruz is a player who cannot simply be replaced, neither in the offense nor on the team.
But the Giants do need to move on, and quickly, so let's look at the potential options available to the Giants.
Julian Talley - Talley has been on and off the Giants' practice squad since he signed with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2012. After playing with the Pittsburgh Power in the Arena Football League (catching 74 passes for 821 yards and 17 touchdowns), he returned to the Giants this past training camp.
A UMass product like Cruz, Talley does have some similarities to the injured receiver. He is smooth. Talley would likely be looked at as a direct fill in on the depth chart at slot receiver.
Juron Criner - Recently added to the Giants practice squad, Criner was a fifth-round compensatory pick by the Oakland Raiders in 2012. Prior to a slow 40 time in the 2012 combine, Criner was thought of as a potential second- to third-round receiver, and that talent showed itself early in his career as a rookie, but he never seemed to put it together while in Oakland.
At 6-3, 225 pounds, and possessing huge (10.5") hands, long (33") arms, and a 38.5" vertical leap, Criner would bring a size and physicality to the Giants' receiving corps that it currently lacks. A natural outside receiver, Criner could provide depth outside, allowing Rueben Randle or Odell Beckham to move inside to fill the void at slot receiver.
After Cruz, Randle is the Eli's next most trusted receiver. He also took snaps in the slot during the preseason. Moving him to the slot could help create match-ups, and place a trusted option where Eli is used to having one.
Preston Parker - Preston Parker, along with Criner, is the Giants only other remaining receiver with any real NFL experience. Parker has shown reasonably reliable hands and route running. Also, the quickness that makes him a capable returner can be put to use to get yards after the catch. Parker could either be the next man up in the slot or possibly play the outside while Randle or Beckham move into the slot receiver role
Corey Washington - There is already a clamor for the undrafted rookie receiver to see a larger role in the offense. Like Criner and Parker, Washington could be used to play one of the outside positions. His size and catch radius would be useful weapons, but as a rookie from a D-II school, there is a lot to the game he still needs to adapt to.
Adrien Robinson - For the third time in as many games the much-maligned tight end got a look in the passing game in garbage time. And for the third time he made a good catch and a strong effort fighting off (and through) tackles for a run after the catch.
This isn't a direct fill-in for Cruz, but considering that the offensive line put forth their worst performance since week 3 of 2013, incorporating more two-tight end sets, while keeping some sort of athletic threat on the field could be in order.
Daniel Fells is still likely the second option there, but Robinson is showing that he deserves some looks. At this point it should be "All Hands On Deck".
I wish I could be talking about the Giants' embarrassing performance, and I'm sure I'll get to do that plenty this week. I wish I could be talking about Larry Donnell's touchdown that wasn't (and I still think that that was a bad call by the refs).
If this was going to be about a play that changed the game, I'd choose that play. It might have sparked the Giants offense while the game was still in reach, and Cruz's knee might still be intact.
But for the second time in as many months I get to write about a talented young player, who is an even better man, who has had his year ended far too early. I get to look for ways for the Giants to soldier on after losing a talented young playmaker.
And I hate that.
Next man up.