I admit to thinking that rookie wide receiver Victor Cruz was simply a nice diversion in training camp. He had a chance to land a spot on the practice squad, but the thought of him making the 53-man roster seemed far-fetched to me. But that was before he basically dismantled the Jets' secondary in the second half of the Giants' 31-16 preseason win Monday. Cruz ended up with six catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns.
Even if he turns out to be a one-hit wonder, this night will stick with him forever. You'll be happy to hear that I've booked Cruz for the Beast on Wednesday. I'll talk to him about his breakout performance and try to find out a little more about his past. I think he has the potential to fill the shoes of special teams stalwart Domenik Hixon. And if he keeps making acrobatic catches in preseason games, coach Tom Coughlin will have to put him in the offensive rotation.
Asked if Monday's game probably put him on the NFL map, Cruz said, "A little bit. When you make catches like that, and it was kind of shocking when I caught it, but you just kind of think about it ‘Wow, if I can make plays against this talent then who knows what the future holds?’ Again, you’ve just got to keep grinding, keep putting the groundwork in and everything else will just take care itself."
Coughlin is a Bill Parcells disciple, so he'll be reminding Cruz "not to eat the cheese" following his big-time performance. But who could blame Cruz for enjoying his stunning performance? Even LeBron James took timeout to recognize Cruz via Twitter. The fact that Cruz is from nearby Paterson, N.J., made the evening a bit more special. As quarterback Jim Sorgi said Monday, "everybody know him now."
If Cruz can find a level of consistency that Ramses Barden couldn't locate last season, he could eventually challenge Mario Manningham as the third receiver. Those weren't "lucky" catches in my book. He displayed remarkable body control and hands while shielding defenders.
Cruz starred at the University of Massachusetts, but he went undrafted last April. Coughlin's normally mindful of not bragging on camp phenoms, but he's made an exception for Cruz.
"Justice has been served,” said Coughlin. “Young man Victor Cruz really has had an outstanding camp. He works his tail off every day. He’s made a lot of plays this past week.”
It's probably the best performance for Cruz since he caught 11 passes for 155 yards against Hofstra last November. And most of us will never forget the 13 catches for 262 yards and two touchdowns that he had against James Madison in September 2008.
If you have questions for Cruz, leave them in the "comments" section. I'm planning to spend about 15 minutes with him via phone Wednesday.
I'm anxious to see if Coughlin allows Cruz to get some reps with the first-teamers in the next preseason game. I'd like to see what he could've done against the likes of Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie. But on this night, I'm not sure Darrelle Revis would've slowed him down.