Defenses are getting physical with Victor Cruz. And he's ready for it.
So said the wide receiver in his weekly spot on WFAN on Tuesday. After some unspectacular numbers in recent weeks, especially against the Cowboys and Steelers who have big, bullying cornerbacks, Cruz said teams are probably going to stick to that black-and-blueprint for slowing him down.
"I just have to understand that it's coming, understand that the physical nature is probably the only way that they can get to me nowadays," Cruz said. "I have to understand that the physical nature is what is going to come next. Just being ready for it and having a plan for it and being physical right back with them and creating separation the best way I can. I think I was doing a good job of that against Pittsburgh but we just couldn't get anything rolling against them offensively."
Cruz has caught seven passes for 90 yards and no touchdowns in the last two games. It's not terrible, but it's not Cruz-like compared with what we have seen from him in the past. In nine games this season, Cruz has 57 catches for 717 yards and seven touchdowns. Perhaps more alarming is that he hasn't caught a pass for more than 26 yards in either of those games.
"It's something that we've hung our hat on is the big play and really changing the faces of the games, making that long touchdown or having that long catch that really changes the perception of the game for us," Cruz said. "But teams have been sitting back in that Cover-2 and not allowing us to do so. So we just gotta take our time and find different ways to beat the opposition."
One of those ways it to literally beat them, the way they are putting a beating on Cruz. The hit by Ryan Clark in the end zone on Sunday that knocked the wind out of Cruz was just the most recent example of defenders taking shots at him.
"As you saw on Sunday, it's just being physical overall, hitting me, whether it be a little bit after the whistle or just being a little more aggressive with me," Cruz said. "Which is cool. It's all in the game, it's all fun. And I embrace it, man. I like having physical games, chirpy games, stuff like that, so I enjoy it.
"I knew it was only a matter of time before guys started getting in my face and using a lot more of their hands in press coverages and things of that nature," he continued. "I knew it was only a matter of time before that came. I was prepared for it, I'm ready for it, and I'm prepared to be just as physical back with them."
Cruz isn't necessarily having trouble getting off the line against the cornerback coverages. His quickness can allow him to slip past them in that area. What he's finding is most of the disruptive contact comes at the top of his routes.
"They like to grab on and hold and even when I'm about to catch the football they're still holding and things like that," he said. "It's just a matter of concentrating on the football all the way into my hands and not letting the physical nature affect me catching the football and running my routes."
One other way to combat that would be to run shorter, quicker underneath routes like slants out of the slot. That's something Mike Francesa suggested during the interview, and it's something that Cruz agreed would be effective. In fact, he went one step further and said that's what the Giants are planning.
"I think that's something we've been looking to do is to send me on those underneath routes, to just get the ball in my hands so I can get going and get some confidence going early and be a catalyst to my team early so we can win the ballgame," Cruz said. "I think that's what we're going to start doing moving forward as well."