The New York Giants, quite honestly, do not have a plethora of game-breaking players as they enter the 2014 season. They have a roster filled largely with solid ones. One of those few real game-breakers is wide receiver Victor Cruz. Let's focus on Cruz today as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster that will report to training camp for the Giants on July 21.
2013 Season In Review
Cruz fell short of a third straight 1,000-yard receiving season when a knee injury suffered against the Seattle Seahawks cost him the final two season of the season. He ended up stuck on 998 yards. Cruz caught 73 passes in the 14 games he played, right on his average of 5.2 catches per game since his breakout 2011 season. He had only four touchdowns, however, with three of those coming in Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys. With Hakeem Nicks not producing big numbers for a second straight year and defenses able to roll more attention his way, Cruz was limited to 13.7 yards per catch. In his stellar 2011 season, Cruz averaged 18.7 yards per catch.
Back in 2011, Eli Manning had a 125.1 passer rating when targeting Cruz. Last season, that rating plummeted to just 86.1. That, honestly, is probably less about Cruz than the Giants crumbling offense as a whole.
2014 Season Outlook
Cruz's knee is not an issue, and there is no reason to expect anything other than what Cruz has given the Giants the last three seasons -- precise, reliable routes from the slot, the ability to get deep on occasion and the escapability to make things happen after the catch. That third attribute should come in handy in the new offense being installed by offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, a West Coast-based scheme that will feature shorter, quicker throws and -- the Giants hope -- more yardage after the catch.
Cruz's ultimate impact could be greatly dependent on the abilities of the receivers around him. Can first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr., third-year man Reuben Randle and fourth-year man Jerrel Jernigan be enough of a factor on the outside to stop defenses from focusing all of their attention on Cruz? Can the Giants find a tight end who can take some of the heat off Cruz on the inside?
For that matter, what impact will McAdoo have on Cruz? Can he move Cruz around enough that defenses have a difficult time locating him and dedicating extra defenders to him?
Cruz is the biggest play-maker the Giants have on offense, but he only had one 100-yard receiving game after Week 4 last season. McAdoo and the Giants need to find ways to get more than that from Cruz in 2014.