We have arrived at one of the most difficult, speculative profiles in our breakdown of the 90-man roster the New York Giants will bring to training camp in a couple of months. It is time to talk about Victor Cruz, which means we have to revisit what happened to him a year ago as well as try to set a realistic expectation for Cruz in 2015.
2014 Season in Review
Of course we know what happened to Cruz in 2014. This happened.
Cruz was already off to the worst start of his career with just 23 receptions in five-plus games. He was on pace for 60.8 catches, far below the career-worst 70 he caught in just games in 2013.
Part of that may have been due to the fact that Odell Beckham did not join the Giants' lineup until Week 5. Still, ig you want to be a naysayer you could point out that it is troubling that Cruz's production has decreased annually since his amazing 2011 season.
2015 Season Outlook
The only truthful way to answer the question of what to expect from Cruz in 2015 is this way. Who knows? I don't. You don't. The Giants are hopeful, but they don't have any idea what to expect. Cruz is forever optimistic, but the reality is that he doesn't know, either.
A torn patellar tendon is not your average knee injury. The torn ACL has become to football what Tommy John surgery has become to a pitcher in baseball. Usually it is a temporary setback from which guys come back a year or so later as good as new. Not so with the injury Cruz suffered.
Shortly after Cruz was injured, upstate orthopedic specialist Dr. Kyle Flik weighed on on what the injury could mean for Cruz long term. Recall that Flik, team doctor for several upstate minor-league teams, told us that "it is certainly possible for him to recover fully" but that such a circumstance would be "a fantastic outcome."
More likely, Flik indicated that the injury would "take its toll on him to some degree."
It is that degree that no one knows, and that could make such a huge difference in the Giants' offense in 2015 and beyond.
An assessment from an orthopedic surgeon Tom Rock of Newsday contacted offered an ominous prognosis for Cruz:
"While it heals after surgery, it's a very difficult injury for a speed guy to come back from," said Dr. Craig Levitz, chairman of orthopedic surgery at South Nassau Communities Hospital and chief of sports medicine. "I don't recall a speed player that has made it back anything close to their former self. He will be ready to play next season, but he may not be good enough to play after he heals."
Cruz has kept to the optimistic belief that he will be ready for Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys, and that he will be the same layer who set a Giants' receiving yardage record in 2011 with 1,536, only missed three straight 1,000-yard seasons by two yards when a 2013 knee injury cost him the final two games and has averaged 4.8 catches and 72.1 yards per game during his career.
There are, however, no guarantees.
Cruz could begin training camp later this summer on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Flik said, and other reports regarding injuries of this nature confirm, that Cruz could participate in training camp at some point if his rehab good smoothly. That, though, is the best-case scenario.
Most of the available data, and there really isn't a whole lot, shows that the vast majority of NFL players who suffer a torn patellar tendon without a torn ACL, which is the Cruz scenario, do return to NFL action. The data, however, does not show in any meaningful way whether these players return to their previous performance levels or if they are lessened by the injury.
My guess? We never see the 1,500-yard, nearly 19 yards per catch version of Cruz again. Truthfully, that guy might have already been gone before the torn patellar tendon.
Might we see a player who can still make key receptions, make some big plays, churn out first downs and make defenses pay for over-committing to Odell Beckham Jr.? That, realistically, is what we should probably be hoping for.
OT Will Beatty (pre-injury)