Bob Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets
The best way Victor Cruz can explain his comfort level with the Giants' newly installed West Coast offense: It's getting there.
"On a scale of 1 to 10, I'm probably an 8," Cruz said Tuesday, a few minutes before the Giants' first training camp practice. "I feel good about the offense. I feel good about how I feel."
Of all the players on the Giants' offense, Cruz might be the biggest beneficiary of the new system. Not that he wasn't a star in the previous offense run by former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. Cruz was consistently the Giants' biggest receiving threat, with 3,626 yards and 23 touchdowns in his first three seasons. But in a system designed to get the ball into the hands of the receiver as quickly as possible, Cruz might be in position to put up his best numbers yet.
"I would love that," Cruz said when asked about the possibilities of the new offense, which uses simple slant patterns and shorter routes more than Gilbride's longer-range passes. "Any receiver would love to get the ball as early as possible, so you can see defenders coming and make them miss. I love to catch the ball early with some space, so I'm definitely looking forward to it."
The West Coast attack stresses quick drops by the quarterback and thus quick releases of his passes. Look at any team that has successfully run Bill Walsh's system -- Walsh's 49ers, the Packers with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, Andy Reid's Eagles and Chiefs teams, to name a few -- and you'll find productive wide receivers in all of them. Cruz can be that guy for the Giants, as long as Eli Manning can make the transition from the only offense he's known over his previous 10 seasons.
Manning himself has admitted to some insecurities about learning the new offense, and Cruz has some doubts, too. The 27-year-old said he routinely gets "the butterflies" at this time of year, and adjusting to a new system only raises the stakes. But the payoff could be huge if the quarterback and his favorite receiver are on the same page with new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's offense.
"I want the ball in my hands, whether it's a 3-yard route or a 30-yard route," Cruz said. "I want the ball in my hands so that I can make big-time moves and make people miss and get into that end zone. It's one of the things I feel I can do best."
Cruz would most likely excel in any offense, given his formidable receiving skills, compactly built frame and exceptional toughness. He was a major contributor in the Giants' 2011 Super Bowl run -- who can forget that 99-yard touchdown play off a short pass against the Jets that fueled the team's late-season surge? -- and the Giants chose Cruz over Hakeem Nicks when it came to making a long-term investment at the position.
Cruz is joined by first-round wideout Odell Beckham Jr. of LSU and returning veteran Rueben Randle. But it's Cruz who will likely be the No. 1 receiver, and he's anxious to test out the new system in live action.
"It's a little difficult in terms of learning a new terminology and doing it on the field as you hear it," Cruz said. "The toughest part is hearing the play, processing it and being able to run it at a quick pace. It's a challenge to continue to go out there and get these plays down and try to be the best players we can be while learning a new offense and competing at a high level. We just have to conform to it and roll with the punches and buy into the new system. I'm looking forward to it."
So are the Giants.
If they're going anywhere this season -- and that's very much an open question with all the turnover on this roster -- then Cruz will have to produce like never before.