EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Victor Cruz is clearly the class of the New York Giants' wide receiver group. Of the 11 wide receivers currently on the roster, only six have caught a single NFL pass, and only two -- Cruz and Mario Manningham -- have caught more than 60. But with Manningham's knee still a major question mark, Cruz stands as the one sure thing in the Giants' receiver corps. Which is why he's not getting a lot of work in practice these days.
"I'm begging for more reps out here in practice, but coach is kind of pulling me back and just making sure I'm staying healthy and we're good to go for the regular season," Cruz said Wednesday afternoon. "They want to get the younger guys reps and get everybody acclimated, and there's only so many reps to go around. So I know, when I'm in there, I have to make the most of my reps."
The Giants would like to carry four tight ends and a fullback, and if they carry four running backs as well, it appears as though they'll have five spots available for wide receivers. Cruz, Rueben Randle, first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. and Jerrell Jernigan are locks to make it. So unless they decide they simply don't have four roster-worthy tight ends (which is entirely possible, even likely) or they decide not to carry a fullback (which also has been discussed), that leaves one spot open for a number of people.
Ideally, Manningham would be the guy to claim the spot. But so far in camp, he is not moving well and at this point it feels unlikely that his knee will allow him to make the final roster. Trindon Holliday may once have had an inside track to a roster spot because of his abilities as a return man, but if Beckham gets healthy and can return punts, Holliday becomes expendable. (They signed Quintin Demps for kick returns.)
That leaves a group of youngsters that includes Marcus Harris (0 career catches), Travis Harvey (0), Preston Parker (44), Julian Talley (0) and Corey Washington (0) competing for that final spot. Asked who's impressed him out of that group, Cruz named Harris, who led the team with four receptions in Sunday night's preseason opener against Buffalo.
"I think Marcus Harris, from the game he had and streaming into practice, he's really been taking advantage of his opportunity with a couple guys being down," Cruz said. "He's really coming to the forefront here as a good player, and he's definitely one of the guys who's been standing out."
Harris did play well against the Bills, showing an ability to catch the ball in traffic and break tackles after the catch. Washington provided the highlight with his 73-yard touchdown catch, and at 6-foot-4 he's intriguing because of his size relative to his competition. Parker had 40 catches for 554 yards and three touchdowns with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2011 but was out of the league last year. The Giants have been using Parker as a return man in camp, which would seem to bode well for his chances, but special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said Wednesday that they were trying to use Harris on returns as well.
Harris went to Murray State. Talley comes from the University of Massachusetts, which is Cruz's school. Harvey went to Florida A&M, Parker finished his college career at North Alabama after transferring from Florida State. And Washington comes from tiny Newberry College in South Carolina. Cruz, who was an undrafted guy who played his way onto the Giants' roster in the 2010 preseason, enjoys watching the unheralded small-school guys try to make it.
"I pull for everyone, but I'm always pulling for the no-name guys who are trying to make it through the ranks, because I was there," Cruz said. "I was in their shoes. I know what it feels like. I know exactly what he's going through in his mind and how it plays out. So those guys talk to me all the time and I always pull for those guys."