The Giants are winless, and with a tough schedule ahead it doesn’t look very promising. But there’s been at least one shining light in an otherwise dim season — wideout Victor Cruz.
So far this season, Cruz has lit up opponents to the tune of 26 receptions for 425 yards and four touchdowns. He’s been so dominant in the Giants’ offense that he has 10 catches, 195 yards and three touchdowns more than any of his teammates. And since he’s coming off a 10-catch, 164-yard and one-touchdown afternoon in an otherwise dismal blowout in Kansas City, he just may be the savior for Big Blue going forward.
“He’s playing as well as we’ve seen him play,” said head coach Tom Coughlin said. “Thank God for it.”
The man responsible for getting him the ball, quarterback Eli Manning, is also singing praises — smart considering he’ll likely be looking for Cruz often against an Eagles secondary that has shown it can be gashed.
“I think Victor is playing great [and] he’s played well all season,” said Manning. “He’s making a lot of plays and winning his one-on-one battles. I think he’s done a great job of coming in and continuing to play at a high level. That’s great and hopefully everybody else can catch up to that level.”
Manning will have a shot at getting on the wideout’s level, as he’s had great success against the Eagles — particularly at home — so this could finally be the matchup the struggling offense needs to break its slide. Manning has tossed 13 touchdowns against just two interceptions in his last four home games against the Eagles.
Even fellow starting wideout Hakeem Nicks, who has struggled mightily this season, may get right this week knowing that the Giants’ passing game has an advantage over the Eagles’ back seven.
“These first four games you’ve seen spurts [in the passing game]. We’ve shown that we can pass the ball. We’re still believing in ourselves, believing in each other. We believe we’re still going to come out with a victory,” said Nicks. “But like I said, it’s not about talking about it, it’s about doing. We go out there, we play hard and it will be in our favor.”
Cruz will have his matchup in his favor against the Eagles. Currently, he’s tied for 10th in the NFL in catches, fourth in receiving yards and tied for third in touchdown catches. His full-season projections are a staggering 104 catches, 1,700-plus yards and 16 touchdowns.
And while he knows he’ll have a target on his back on Sunday, Cruz accepted that responsibility and said he won’t try to play any harder than usual.
“I guess I’m just getting open, catching balls that are thrown to me and making something happen,” Cruz said. “That’s all I can do, to do what’s expected of me and get myself open and be an outlet for Eli to hit ... but it’s not just about me. It’s about this team getting on the same page again, us clicking on all accords and getting this offense back on track.”
The Giants’ offense is ranked 23rd in yards (325.5 a game) and 30th in scoring (a paltry 15.3 points a game). Philadelphia has scored an average of 24.8 points per game, a respectable 12th overall in the rankings. But the defense has allowed 34.5 points per game, making their points differential minus-9.8 points per game. That’s 28th in the league, meaning as much as they get, they give even more.
“I think if we give the quarterback time, I think very confidently he’ll throw the ball well and give our guys a chance. Things have worked [and] those are the things you try to focus on,” offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. “The other guys have to step up and make plays. [Cruz] is playing great and we’re very proud of the way he’s shown up, [but] we have other guys who have talent, too, and we believe that they can do it, too. ... Eli will find them. We’re trying to give all of them [receivers] a chance. I think we’re headed in the right direction. Unfortunately it’s been painfully slow.”
Big Blue notes ...
» The Giants are facing the Eagles one week after Philadelphia lost to the Broncos, 52-20. This week, Denver (4-0) is at Dallas (2-2), which is in first place in the NFC East. If the Giants win and the Cowboys lose, the Giants will be just a game out of first place.
» Manning admitted that he and big brother Peyton have compared notes on each other’s upcoming opponents.
“I talked to him [Wednesday],” Manning said. “I talked to him about Philly. I gave him my thoughts on Dallas. That’s who they’re playing this week. I watched [Denver’s] game [against the Eagles]. You ask some questions and just see some general thoughts and I’ll do the same helping him with Dallas. ... Not so much as advice, [but] just scheme or some ideas or just some general thoughts on their team.”
» One day after safety Antrel Rolle admitted he’s “desperate” for a win, Cruz basically admitted the same thing.
“This game’s always intense,” Cruz said. “Us against Philly is always intense, no matter what the records are, no matter how each team is playing. It’s an important game for us no matter what. This game is important in the division. We have to get this victory by any means necessary.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.