Sterling Shepard got an apology when he was not targeted with a pass attempt a week ago against the Browns.
Victor Cruz just wants an explanation.
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That’s why the receiver said he plans to speak with coach Ben McAdoo about the way he was used Sunday against the Steelers — and likely the way he’s been used the past month — when he reports to work Tuesday.
The conversation, he insists, will not be framed as a complaint.
“I’m not angry,” Cruz said while appearing on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” program Monday morning. “I’m not a disgruntled employee. I’m not like, ‘Screw this.’ I’m a team guy first and I just want to make sure that everybody is interested.”
McAdoo said Monday that he’ll welcome the chat.
“When you have been as inconsistent as we have on offense, it’s a challenge,” McAdoo said of spreading the ball around. “Victor, like everybody else, including myself, wants to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. So my door is always open for any of these guys that want to come in and have a conversation.”
Cruz, though, might not like the answer he gets, especially if it is anything like what Eli Manning suggested on his weekly WFAN radio appearance Monday. The quarterback said there were plenty of plays in which Cruz was the primary target against the Steelers. He just couldn’t get open.
“We had some plays where Victor was my number one receiver, but the way things [unfolded], we wound up throwing it down the field,” Manning said of one in particular, an early incompletion to tight end Jerrel Adams. “Victor was my first progression there and the corner played it well, covered him on the in-breaking route, so I had to go through my progression.”
It was Manning who approached Shepard last week and offered his apology, something McAdoo said was “healthy” but “not necessary.” This week, Manning has shown no signs of taking the blame for Cruz’s goose egg.
“As a quarterback, I’m not in the targeting business,” he said. “It’s my job to go through progressions and reads . . . I wish I could get everybody seven or eight catches a game. It just doesn’t always work that way.”
There also is mounting evidence that the Giants are starting to phase Cruz out of the offense. He’s still a starter, but on Sunday, he rotated with rookie Roger Lewis Jr. Cruz wound up with 26 offensive snaps to Lewis’ 29. It was the second-fewest number of plays for Cruz since he returned from his nearly two years away from the field because of injuries. Against the Eagles, he had 16 snaps before leaving with an ankle injury and missing a week.
Getting completely shut out is new for Cruz, who did not have a catch against the Packers earlier this season but was targeted twice in that game. He had only one catch in each of the three games before Sunday, but each of those played a part in the victory. That’s what Cruz wants, he said.
“Honestly, I just want to go out there and contribute at the end of the day,” he said. “I want to be the person to uplift us, to get us going.”
On Sunday, though, the ball never came Cruz’s way. Lewis had only one catch on one target. A week earlier, it was Shepard who went the whole game without a target.
Meanwhile, in the past two games, Odell Beckham Jr. has been targeted a combined 27 times.
For a team that runs its offense almost exclusively out of a three-receiver set, the Giants sure seem to have a hard time getting the ball to three receivers.
Manning dismissed the idea that he has been “force-feeding” Beckham.
“I don’t have a guy who I’m throwing to him no matter what,” he said. “Odell is our playmaker and a lot of things kind of start with him. We try to get him into a spot where he might get the ball, but other guys, sometimes if the defense is playing certain things, then Victor or Shep or the tight end will be my first read as well.”
And if they’re open, they’ll get the ball. If they’re not, well, they have a meeting with the head coach.