New York Giants’ wide receiver Victor Cruz is ready to return. He is finally (supposedly) healthy entering 2016. But it is a mistake to expect anything from him for this coming season, both for his sake and ours as fans. (Photo Credit: 1938news.com)
Much of the New York Giants’ success in the 2016 NFL season will come down to how prolific their passing attack is. With Eli Manning behind center, Odell Beckham Jr. nearly impossible to cover on the outside and new rookie receiver Sterling Shepard added to the fray, there is a lot to be positive about. Giants fans are also impatiently awaiting the return of former Pro Bowl wide receiver Victor Cruz.
The last time we saw Cruz playing full-time for New York was in 2013. He was coming off of a 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown season the previous year and recorded 998 yards in 14 games. Two years before that was his coming-out party where Cruz topped 1,500 yards in his first season garnering playing time. It was quite a three-year run for number 80.
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Then in 2014, Cruz went down with a torn patellar tendon and played in just six games. After missing more than half that season, he remained out for the entirety of 2015, unable to return from the knee injury after also suffering a calf injury that led to surgery. After topping 3,500 yards in a three-year span, Cruz only made 23 total catches over the next two seasons.
Now, the offseason before the 2016 NFL season, with Cruz more than a year and a half removed from his last game, he claims to be 100 percent. He says there are “no injuries, no ailments, nothing hurts, no pain.” But can we believe that? Can the Giants rely on that? Well, even if it’s misguided and premature, expectations are building.
The New York Post claimed (prior to the NFL Draft ) that the team did not need to draft a wide receiver with Cruz coming back. Thank god the team ignored that advice in favor of a more practical and guarded view of what Cruz will or can offer. The New York Daily News, forcing a pun into its headline, declared there to be “Giant expectations” with Cruz’s return to the field. Why?
You know what the team needs to do? It needs to expect literally nothing from Victor Cruz in 2016. There is no reason to place any level of expectation on his return and his possible production. He doesn’t need to start. That position can be given to the talented Shepard, a four-year player from Oklahoma who tallied up more than 3,500 yards and 27 touchdowns during his collegiate career. Cruz doesn’t need to play the slot. That position can be given to Dwayne Harris, who was surprisingly effective as a wide receiver last year in a limited role. Cruz doesn’t need to be in on special formations and run wheel routes and be active in the backfield. That position belongs to Shane Vereen, who finished second on the team in receptions a season ago, his first as a member of the Giants.
If Cruz truly is 100 percent healthy and, more importantly, is able to return to 100 percent of the player he used to be, the Giants’ offense is going to be special. Why are you going to expect that though? How likely is that outcome? Even if Cruz returns to the field, he is going to look and play differently than he used to. So why bother pressing labels onto him and his ceiling? The NFL is a sport built on short, explosive highs and quick careers. Rosters turn over every year. Victor Cruz is just another piece added to the depth chart. He may turn into something; he may not. If Giants fans treat it as such, any success that comes his way will be seen as fun and enjoyable. Otherwise, placing “Giant expectations” on his performance will just lead to disappointment and ridicule.
New York’s season is not going to come down to what Cruz produces on the field.
Todd Salem is a Contributing Editor at BuzzChomp. He’s also a Staff Writer for NFL Spinzone, a Featured Columnist at College Sports Madness and an Analyst for Tipster Labs, among others. Follow him on Twitter.
Additional photo courtesy of footballnation.com