Seahawks could give Cruz what he craves

December, 12, 2013
12/12/13
3:45
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- No matter how tough the opposing defense, by Thursday the New York Giants' offense is focusing on something about that defense it thinks it can exploit. So while the Giants know the Seattle Seahawks have as good a defense as any team in the league, they're more focused on what they might be able to do than what they won't.

[+] EnlargeVictor Cruz
Al Bello/Getty ImagesWill Victor Cruz get one-on-one opportunities against Seattle's secondary?
"Some of the things they do should give us some chances," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said Thursday. "Guys we have who are always clamoring for one-on-one opportunities, they're going to get them."

The guy who most fits that description this year is wide receiver Victor Cruz, who is 27 yards shy of his third straight 1,000-yard season but doesn't have a touchdown since September and has struggled to be as productive and explosive this year as he was in the last two.

"There's no question that we haven't been as effective in some of the other spots, so teams are gearing up to see where Victor is," Gilbride said. "And we've gotten a lot more doubles."

Gilbride wasn't naming names, but everyone knows that wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and tight end Brandon Myers have been disappointments this year as receivers. As the year has gone on and Nicks has consistently failed to play like his old self on the outside, Cruz has seen a lot more coverage. He says he takes it in stride.

"It's tough overall, having to face a double-team, having to face a lot of attention throughout the year," Cruz said. "But it's something you've got to battle and deal with. You want to call yourself an elite receiver in this league, it's something you've got to do."

Cruz says he takes it as a compliment that opposing coaches are scheming for him and concentrating extra attention his way. As for what Seattle will do, he's hopeful but not certain.

"I've seen them double (Falcons tight end) Tony Gonzalez a bunch, and a few other guys," Cruz said. "So we'll see if they do it. They're pretty much locked into a playoff spot, so I don't know if they'll be as risky as they might have been earlier in the season."

Even if he does see single coverage, it won't be easy. Seattle's defensive backs are some of the biggest and most physical in the league, led by 6-foot-3 cornerback Richard Sherman. Gilbride is preparing his receivers to take a physical beating Sunday.

"You've just got to prepare them to realize what they're in for," Gilbride said. "Guys are going to be up in your face, grabbing you, holding you. And if you think it's all going to be called and that's the solution to the problem, you're going to be sorely disappointed, because they have mastered the art."

The Giants are out of the playoff hunt. The Seahawks have clinched their spot and are almost certain to get the NFC's No. 1 seed. The individual matchups on the field will be worth watching Sunday, though, and the way the Giants' struggling passing game attacks Seattle's famed secondary will be as interesting as anything. Who knows? Maybe it's the week Cruz gets going.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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