The obvious comparison for Giants rookie wide receiver Corey Washington is Victor Cruz: Both were walk-on players from obscure football programs with superb come-from-out-of-nowhere performances in training camp, although it's still way too early to tell if Washington can turn into a star player like Cruz.
But if Washington is asked whom he likens himself to, it's not Cruz but another highly accomplished receiver. A future Hall of Famer.
"Randy Moss," the free agent out of tiny Newberry College said about the wide receiver he most admired while growing up in Charleston, South Carolina. "The way he plays, makes spectacular catches, takes the top off the defense. He was all around. He could block. He was a very good player."
Not always a great teammate, though. "No, not that part of it," Washington said. "I'm talking about the playing part."
If only . . .
At 6-4, 214 pounds, Washington is more like Moss than Cruz, the compactly built speedster who can play in the slot or on the outside. Washington is the tallest receiver on the Giants' roster, and he has used that height to great advantage in the first two preseason games. He had a touchdown in each -- a 73-yarder on a "go" route in the opener against Buffalo and a 3-yard score on a fade route Saturday against the Steelers.
Could Washington be the Giants' next free-agent find at wide receiver, just as Cruz was in 2010, when he had a brilliant preseason as a walk-on from UMass? Ask new Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who has seen plenty of Washington in practice, and the answer is yes.
"He's a small-school guy who wasn't getting reps at first, but he just exploded," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "Even in practice, he's making big catches against the ones, twos and threes. It doesn't matter who's out there. He tends to find himself jumping over people. He's definitely a gifted young man."
Asked if he'd be surprised if Washington doesn't make the Giants' roster, Rodgers-Cromartie said, "Yeah, I would, just as far as him coming out here and the things he's done."
Before we make any sweeping proclamations about Washington, let's remember that it is very early in the process. How many times have we seen rookies flash in training camp, only to fizzle during the regular season? That's when they face the best competition -- not the second- and third-stringers against whom Washington has excelled this summer.
One Giants official offered that warning. "Only preseason," he said. "Long way to go."
Yes, there is. And even if Washington wants to fancy himself as the next Moss, the Giants would be happy if he becomes a capable fourth or fifth receiver this year.
Even Cruz, who blossomed into a star in Year 2, was only moderately effective as a rookie before pulling a hamstring in early October and spending the rest of the season on injured reserve.But there's a lot to like about Washington's raw talent, as well as his size and speed. There aren't many 6-4 receivers who can run fast and catch well. Now it's a matter of continuing to adjust to the meteoric jump in competition from Newberry College to the NFL. That part will take some time.
"He's still got to improve on route-running and techniques and those things," quarterback Eli Manning said. "But just from a size matchup and playmaking ability, he's done a good job making some plays in the games and in practice.''
Washington wasn't on the radar of big-time college programs because of poor grades, so he took a more circuitous route. He started off at Georgia Military College and transferred to Newberry. Even against lesser competition, Washington's numbers didn't jump out; last season, he had 41 catches for 750 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The Cardinals signed him as an undrafted free agent in May, but he lasted only two weeks. Why the quick hook?
"I can't tell you why it ended so quickly," he said. "I had a great rookie minicamp. You cut Corey Washington? I got the chip on my shoulder. I'm gonna go out there and work every day and show them why they shouldn't have cut me.''
Next chance to demonstrate that: at Indianapolis Saturday night. Another chance for Washington to show the Giants he can turn into the second coming of Victor Cruz.
Or, even better, Randy Moss.