No one on the Giants coaching staff knows Victor Cruz as well as offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan. He was Cruz’s first position coach in the NFL, won a Super Bowl with him, and was even the one who first encouraged him to salsa after scoring his touchdowns.
But when it comes to knowing what Cruz will be capable of doing in 2016, Sullivan is as much in the dark as everyone else.
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“Until we know exactly what he’s physically capable of doing, then you are going to be hard-pressed to say: ‘This is the role he will fill,’” Sullivan said on Friday. “But we’ve all seen and know the things he can do, especially in the slot, being able to win some of those one-on-one matchups and great runs after catch. [He’s] a great football player.”
Or maybe he was.
Cruz, 29, hasn’t played a competitive snap since October 2014 when he tore the patellar tendon in his knee. He came back from that injury last season only to suffer a preseason calf injury that ultimately required surgery and left him sidelined the entire year.
Now, after taking a substantial paycut, Cruz is trying to return. And while the Giants are not necessarily counting on him, they certainly are hopeful that he can at least be on the field and something close to the player he was at the prime of his career.
“I know he’s had a tough stretch here and has been out for a while,” Sullivan said, “but if he can be the Victor that we all know and love it would be a great asset for us.”
Cruz may not have to come all the way back to that level to be effective. With Odell Beckham Jr. on the field, Cruz will not be getting the kinds of coverages he faced in 2012 and 2013 when he was the team’s top receiving threat.
“With a premier player like Odell, that is going to create opportunities for other guys,” Sullivan said. “There is no mistaking that. If a team is going to put their best guy on Odell, that means their second- or third-best guy is going to be on Victor in the slot or on the other side. That does enable them to have an opportunity to succeed.”
Of course, Cruz has to get on the field for that to even come into play.
“There is a skillset which he has, there is an ability which is fresh in my mind from visions of 2011 when he did so many great things, and I’m hoping that he continues to work hard the way he has been so he can get himself back physically to the type of player that he was for us and be an added dimension to our passing game,” Sullivan said. “Which would really help us out a lot.”