When you think of New York Giants football, you generally don't think of a high-speed, high octane passing attack. Yet that is exactly what the Giants and Ben McAdoo have assembled on offense.
In fact, NFL analyst Bucky Brooks rated the Giants' passing attack as the fifth most explosive in the NFL.
The linchpin of the Giants offense in 2014, apart from Eli Manning, was obviously Odell Beckham Jr. Despite missing his entire rookie offseason -- and the first quarter of the regular season -- the offensive rookie of the year soon dominated the media and league as the best receiver in football. His numbers weren't simply the product of feasting on poor competition, Beckham competed with, and won against, greats such as Vontae Davis and Richard Sherman. Defenses could mix coverages, double team him, hold him, or even try to literally knock him out of the game, and he still produced.
Across from Beckham Rueben Randle is a good second option, and a great third option. He started the season inconsistently, but by the end of the year, Randle began to find his niche in the new offense. While he struggled as the "No. 1" option in the offense, he later excelled attacking the middle of the field and as a weapon down the field.
However, as good as the Giants' passing attack was, it never got to show its full potential.
Between injuries to Rashad Jennings, Victor Cruz, and various offensive linemen, the Giants never once had their complete starting offense on the field, and only had their anticipated starting skill position players on the field for two quarters against the Atlanta Falcons.
The Giants never got to see what an offense containing Odell Beckham, Rueben Randle, and Victor Cruz could do.
But in 2015 they might.
Cruz recently stated that he has been running routes and cutting saying:
"I feel pretty good," Cruz said Tuesday at the Gridiron Gala to benefit the United Way. "(Today I did) some intermediate stuff, some cutting, planting left and right. I'm just excited to continue that. It feels very, very good right now."
Cruz reiterated that he plans to return in August.
"I'm in no rush at all," he said. "I think it's just a matter of this is the process that we're in (of) the recovery. The plan is still intact. I just go in there day-to-day and they tell me what to do."
If the prospects for the Giants' passing attack in 2015 with Beckham and Randle are exciting, the prospects with a healthy Victor Cruz are a step beyond.
As Giants fans well remember, Cruz had his own meteoric rise to super-stardom in 2011. Cruz quickly became one of the most dangerous big play threats in the game out of the slot receiver position. Cruz used his agility and explosive acceleration to capitalize on space created for him by the attention commanded by Hakeem Nicks.
If Cruz is healthy, he and Beckham can enjoy a similar dynamic. If anything, the combination of Beckham and Cruz could be even better than Nicks and Cruz. Ben McAdoo's high-speed offense is more perfectly suited to Cruz's strengths and talents than Kevin Gilbride's. This offense is designed to create and exploit match-ups, as well as run after catch opportunities on short or intermediate routes. Those routes are Cruz's specialties, and he performed admirably before his knee injury, despite teams being able to concentrate coverage on him.
There are also the added X-Factor of Shane Vereen. Vereen is one of the top third down and pass catching running backs in the NFL, and he could help take the Giants' offense to another level.
So how much better could a healthy Victor Cruz make the Giants' passing attack? The Giants will obviously want to run the ball -- much -- more effectively than they did in 2014, but there should be plenty of receiving yards to go around. If Beckham and Randle are able to build on the momentum they generated by the end of 2014, and Cruz completes his comeback, could they enter the rarefied air of a 1,000 yard receiving trio? I'm sure the Giants' primary concern is just getting Cruz healthy and back on the field, but the potential in this offense is exciting to think about.