The Giants opened training camp over the weekend, and while there are many storylines to keep pace with, none is more concerning to Big Blue backers than the progression of wideout Victor Cruz.
Big Blue has held three sessions so far, and the former franchise receiver has participated in them all, including Sunday’s indoor practice.
New head coach Ben McAdoo has been working his veteran receiver slowly and surely, as Cruz has mainly worked with the second unit. Instead of catching passes from his customary quarterback, Eli Manning, Cruz has been real familiar with backup Ryan Nassib. Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie Sterling Shepard have solely worked with the starters, with Dwayne Harris and Geremy Davis also being sprinkled in with the starting unit.
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Cruz, who hasn’t played in a game since Oct. 2014 (a torn patellar tendon in 2014 and a calf malady that made him miss all of 2015), said he knows that people may want to treat him with kid gloves. But at the same time, he said he feels as good as he’s felt in years.
“We’re just taking it one play [at a time]. There are times when I feel it [coming back] and I’m making a move and make something happen, but right now it’s just the start of being back,” he said. “I need to prove to myself that I can do all the things I once did, [and] that I can do it not just once but consistent.”
While Cruz has officially still been a part of the team and learning the offense’s nuances, despite not seeing any action in almost two years, McAdoo admitted that it’ll still take an adjustment period. The newbie coach said all his receivers need to know every wideout assignment, whether they’re specialists out wide, flanked next to the tight end, or in the slot.
“They all need to learn all three spots. Four spots, if we play with four [wideouts], and five, if we play with five,” McAdoo said. “They need to learn concepts. In a no-huddle [formation], for instance, you have to learn Z [flanker] and X [outside]. And with motion they could be one [first option], two, or three. … Everyone needs to work and know all the concepts. That’s the best way to learn the offense. And Victor is picking it all up.”
Cruz is also picking up on the naysayers and those preaching precaution. And while he understands the sentiments, he noted that nobody within the facilities wants to wrap him in bubble wrap.
In fact, the usually cordial Cruz sometimes has an edge to his tone when the idea of “rest and recovery days” is broached.
“I’m on the same program as everybody else,’’ Cruz said, adding that he takes mental notes of all the doubters and keyboard warriors on social media who take shots at him. “It [criticism and skepticism] is more from people outside of our bubble, outside of this family that we’re in that have those doubts. And as much as people say they don’t read those Twitter comments, I read them, I skim them a little bit. I don’t let it affect me much, but I skim them just to gauge what people are saying.’’
The competitive Cruz once said that if he can’t get back to his old form where he was the most feared slot wideout in the game, that he’d see “no reason to be out here.” He said the need to “be at that same pedigree’ is crucial to him.
But for the Giants’ offense, one that finished in the top-10 last season, Cruz really doesn’t need to be a top-flight wideout anymore. He just needs to be respected enough by opposing defenses to take the pressure off Beckham, who’s carried the wideout corps since coming into the league.
Big Blue notes:
-Beckham gave a quick scare when he and cornerback Janoris Jenkins got tangled up on a pass pattern deep down field. The wideout hobbled off the field and was checked by trainers. He didn’t return to practice, as he was seen limping off the field before being carted from the indoor facility to the trainer’s room.
-Shepard has been seen working with special teams coaches on punt returns.
-McAdoo has scheduled Aug. 3 as the first day the team will practice in full pads. He also deemed Aug. 6 as the longest practice day of the summer.
-The new head man also said he’ll continue to adopt former head coach Tom Coughlin’s infamous clock rule, as the team will still go by “Coughlin time” – meaning, if you are five minutes early for a meeting, you’re still considered late.
-Defensive tackles Damon Harrison and Jay Bromley have begun camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.
-Filling those spots are former undrafted free agents, Jemelle Cudjo, formerly of the then-St. Louis Rams, and Davon Coleman, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys.