Commentary

Cruz's salsa got its spice in Philly

Giants' star wideout returns Sunday to the site of his breakout performance

Updated: September 28, 2012, 10:42 AM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After Victor Cruz crushed the Eagles with two touchdowns last year in Philadelphia, many were wondering who was this salsa-dancing Giants receiver.

Michael Vick remembers when the Eagles started asking each other that question as well.

[+] EnlargeVictor Cruz
Chris Trotman/Getty ImagesA star was born on Sept. 25, 2011.

"During the game, not after," Vick said of that Giants' 29-16 win last September. "Unfortunately, it was against us where he kind of made his name in the NFL."

A star was born on Sept. 25, 2011. And a new touchdown dance craze was hatched as well.

On Sunday night, Cruz returns to the site where it all began for him when the Giants renew their NFC East rivalry with Philadelphia.

"That's kind of where the Victor Cruz story kind of originated," Cruz said. "It gave me a lot of confidence. I just needed an opportunity. To really come out, it was a great feeling and I used that momentum going forward for the rest of the season."

The win over the Eagles ignited a magical season for Cruz, who had 82 receptions for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns. He was a big-play machine and the first two big plays he made came against Philly. He scored on a 74-yard touchdown and a 28-yard touchdown in which he beat Nnamdi Asomugha for the ball.

The Giants were in dire need of a third receiver to step up at the time and Cruz quickly made everyone forget about Steve Smith's departure to Philadelphia.

Few were happier to see Cruz's breakout than offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.

"If you remember now, I was the one who championed him all along," Gilbride said. "So it was what I would hope would manifest itself but it had not and of course, in the first game he had some drops.

"Now did you necessarily see a 74-yard run or him jumping up and taking the ball away from two guys?" Gilbride continued. "No. But he always had demonstrated the ability to play inside and make some plays and run after the catch. Thankfully, he had it."

Cruz seemed to like playing against Philadelphia last season. In his two meetings against the Eagles, Cruz totaled nine receptions for 238 yards and three touchdowns.

"I saw a little of everybody. Nnamdi, Asante (Samuel) was there last year," Cruz said of how the Eagles covered him. "I am expecting to see a little of everybody. They don't discriminate."

Certainly this time, the Eagles will know who Cruz is and will be prepared. He has had at least six catches in each of his first three games. But he only has one touchdown.

Cruz got a good laugh when a reporter told him Philadelphia is now the birthplace of the salsa touchdown dance.

"It's been a lot of salsa since then," Cruz said with a chuckle. "It's good to go back to where it all started. And hopefully get another one."

Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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