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Victor Cruz, Giants offense confident it can get going Monday night

Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants

Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants celebrates after a first down catch against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Sept. 11, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Tom Pennington

Cruz confident in offense

Don’t worry. Victor Cruz said the firepower is on the way.

“We haven’t had that game where everyone is playing and everyone is clicking and everything looks good on all cylinders,” the wide receiver said. “But I think we’re close. I think we’re getting there.”

The Giants set a goal of averaging 28 points per game, and so far this season they haven’t even scored that in a single game. Their average is a relatively low 21.0 heading into Monday night’s game at Minnesota, but their confidence is much higher.

Cruz’s comments come on the heels of Odell Beckham Jr. yearning for “blowout” wins and even suggesting with a straight face that a 66-0 victory would be nice. For a team that hasn’t scored 66 points all season, that’s a pretty tall order. And for a player who has yet to find the end zone himself this year, it may seem rather strange.

Beckham is in the middle of the longest touchdown drought of his career, a span of four games played without reaching the end zone that goes back to last year’s game against Carolina on Dec. 20. Prior to this his only streak of consecutive games without a touchdown was a three-game stretch in his rookie year, the fourth, fifth and sixth games of his career.

“Going three games [this season] and not being in there, you don’t take it for granted anymore,” Beckham said. “It seems like scoring a touchdown is the norm. I know for sure I could score every single game. I feel that way. I’m confident in myself, in my abilities.”

As are all of the Giants, even against a taut Vikings defensive front.

“We’re going to play our game,” Giants coach Ben McAdoo said. “We have confidence as an offense that we’re going to be able to move the ball, put points on the board, and we’re going to play our game. We’re not going to back down from anybody.”

And what’s that game?

“We want to be able to use this passing offense to the best of our ability,” Cruz said. “I think getting down the field and putting the ball in areas where we can make the play more so than we have, that is our strength. That is where we want to excel and where we want to be at our best. I think it has definitely been a point of emphasis, so we will see how it goes.”

Zooming with Zimmer

McAdoo called the Vikings “a team with Super Bowl aspirations,” and at 3-0 they certainly are heading in the right direction. That they are doing so without their projected starting quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater), running back (Adrian Peterson) and left tackle (Matt Kalil) is a testament to head coach Mike Zimmer.

Or maybe a testament to Bill Parcells?

Zimmer said he has long been a disciple of Parcells’ — he was an assistant under the Hall of Famer with the Cowboys — and has often texted and spoken with him through the years. When Bridgewater tore up his knee in the preseason, the sermon came quickly from Parcells.

“Basically the message was that things like this will happen,” Zimmer said. “No one is going to feel sorry for you, you just have to move forward and you have to get your team to believe that they can win and understand how your team has to play in order to win.”

That’s nothing new for Zimmer, said Giants cornerback Leon Hall, who played for him as a defensive coordinator in Cincinnati.

“He’s installed them as one of the top teams in the NFC, if not the league, even without their top players,” Hall said. “I know that’s one thing Zim has always done. No matter what personnel he has, the expectation is for the position.”

Hall said there were plenty of years with the Bengals suffered numerous injuries and still managed to be productive.

“He calls the game accordingly and he still expects his guys to play well whether it’s a practice squad guy brought up or his number one corner,” Hall said. “He’s always done a really good job with that.”

Big Blue to Big Purple

In four seasons with the Giants, defensive tackle Linval Joseph had nine sacks. He added 3.5 more in his first two years in Minnesota. But this season, through three games, Joseph already has three of them.

“I think he is starting to relish the role of trying to become more of a pass rusher,” Zimmer said. “He is excited about having three sacks in three games. He is a big, strong, powerful man that if he developed a little bit different with his mentality as more of a pass rusher, I think that he would even continue to get better.”

The sacks are ancillary. Joseph’s primary job is to stop opposing teams from running. In that regard, things haven’t changed much from his days as a second-round pick for the Giants.

“Linval Joseph is probably one of the hardest working guys,” said Giants guard Justin Pugh, the only starting offensive lineman for the Giants who overlapped with him in New York. “[He’s] probably one of the strongest guys in the NFL. Definitely got our work cut out for us. Obviously, playing against him last year, you can see that in the way he plays and I think he’s one of the best nose tackles in the NFL.”

Giant stat

1934: The last time the Giants did not intercept a pass in the first three games of a season until this year. They are the only team in the NFL without a defensive takeaway. Last season they went five straight games from Nov. 29 to Dec. 27 without a pick.

Did you know?

Sterling Shepard needs three catches, and 103 receiving yards to set team records in both categories for a rookie in his first four NFL games. Beckham holds the mark for receptions with 18 in 2014 and Bobby Johnson set the yardage record with 335 in 1984. Shepard also could conceivably break the record for TD receptions by a rookie through four games. He has two so far and the record of four is held by four players: Johnson, Bill Swiacki (1948), Ken MacAfee (1954) and Don Herrmann (1969).


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