Words couldn’t describe what Odell Beckham Jr. thinks will be possible if he, Victor Cruz and rookie Sterling Shepard get on the field together this season. So instead of trying to find the vocabulary when asked about that scenario — one that came into a bit more focus on Tuesday when Cruz participated in drills with the team for the first time this offseason — Beckham simply raised his arms in the signal that he expects to see a lot of in 2016.
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“It’s too many weapons,” Beckham said when he finally found his tongue. “Last year we had a lot of teams rolling coverages my way . . . Now you can’t do that so much. You try to roll somebody this way, put Shep one-one-one, and I’ve seen what he can do. I’m happy with that. You want to roll people my way, you want to emphasize me more, you have 80 [Cruz’s number], 87 or whatever number he’s gonna wear [for Shepard], and they’re going to pick you apart.”
Beckham then went further and spoke about the running backs catching passes out of the backfield.
“All these other weapons,” he said, “I just don’t see us not being successful.”
It’s amazing what having Cruz on the field for a handful of drills at Tuesday’s minicamp practice did for the confidence of the group. Cruz didn’t even take any team reps, and he never faced off against a defender in any full-speed plays. But he ran a few routes at full speed against air and did a few walk-through plays, and that was enough to stoke the excitement of the entire receiving corps.
Even Shepard, who has yet to catch a pass in the NFL, has bought into the hype.
“You look at it and there isn’t a way that we shouldn’t be successful,” Shepard said. “You’re going to see a lot of touchdowns between us three. We get Vic back full and healthy, I see us lighting up the scoreboard.”
That is the plan, anyway. And it was the plan last year, too, when Cruz was attempting to come back from a torn patellar tendon. It was derailed by a calf injury Cruz suffered in the preseason that eventually required surgery.
Tuesday was Cruz’s first time on the field with the full team for a practice since September when he tested the calf and couldn’t make it through the workout. His teammates let him know how much he had been missed when, during the first drill, he ran through a gauntlet while working on ball security and received a little bit of an ovation . . . along with some friendly jeering.
“Who’s the new guy?” Cruz said they were asking him.
The Giants hope he’ll be just like the old guy, and Cruz said he’s close to feeling that way. He ran routes at top speed for the first time on Friday, had no setbacks other than routine soreness, and was cleared for his limited participation in this minicamp.
“It was good to have Victor back in the fold,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “We felt it was time to take the next step.”
Cruz’s work in this three-day minicamp won’t go very far toward making him a better player come September. And there are some who will say putting Cruz on the field now is not worth the risk when the stated goal all along has been to have him back for the start of training camp on July 28. It’s clear the Giants are still being very cautious with Cruz; McAdoo called it “another small step” and Cruz said it was “a step in the right direction.”
“I personally wanted to do something this spring and summer,” Cruz said. “It’s just for my mindset and for me to understand and know that I can still do what I’m accustomed to doing. I can still run routes, I still feel good, I can still make a sharp cut and everything feels the same and nothing hurts.”
Beckham and Cruz have been close friends and teammates for over two years now, but they have spent only six quarters of game time on the field together. The past two years have been mostly conjecture about what they will be able to do together, and now that Shepard is in the mix as well, Beckham is clearly drooling at the idea.
“The time is coming,” Beckham said. “I feel like he worked too hard to have any kind of setbacks now . . . I’m looking forward to being able to play with him. It’s just a matter of being patient.”