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Victor Cruz, Jason Pierre-Paul hopeful of playing Week 1

Victor Cruz #80 of the Giants celebrates during

Victor Cruz #80 of the Giants celebrates during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at MetLife Stadium. (Aug. 18, 2013) Credit: Mike Stobe

Moments after Jason Pierre-Paul completed a ramped-up day on the practice field, Victor Cruz stepped to the outdoor podium Tuesday and said he was "looking forward to better days coming."

One day in particular: Sept. 8. The season opener in Dallas.

Cruz isn't ready to salsa yet, but the wide receiver did shed his walking boot on Monday. His bruised left heel has improved to the point where playing in Week 1 seems quite likely.

"In my mind, that's a date that I'm targeting," Cruz said. "I'm going to work diligently this week while the team's away and focus on getting myself ready, and ready to practice potentially by next week."

Cruz, who was injured Aug. 18, will watch on TV as the Giants finish their preseason tomorrow night against the Patriots in Foxborough. Pierre-Paul won't be there, either. But the Giants' best defensive player took part in 11-on-11 drills for the first time in his second day of practice after coming off the physically unable to perform list Monday.

"He jumped in there and did a couple of good things," Tom Coughlin said of Pierre-Paul, who had offseason back surgery.

Having Cruz and Pierre-Paul on the field for the opener would be a boon to the Giants, who have had an injury-filled camp and are waiting for their first-team offense to jell.

Coughlin said he would play his first-teamers 12 to 15 plays Thursday, with quarterback Eli Manning followed by rookie Ryan Nassib.

The Giants' starters have only two TDs this preseason: a 57-yard reception by Cruz in the opener and an 84-yard run by David Wilson on the first play from scrimmage against the Jets on Saturday.

"I'd like to see some continuity and some execution, some performance," Coughlin said. "I'd like to see us get the ball in the end zone. I'd like to see us do well on third down. I'd like to see our passing game with our protection look like some type of an efficient operation. I'd like to see progress. That's really what I would like to see."

Still, Coughlin won't extend the first-teamers more than 12 to 15 plays if he doesn't see what he wants. Manning won't be entering the game in the fourth quarter, either.

"I would err on the side of safety for the first game," Coughlin said.

As for Cruz, he described the multitude of treatments and activities he's been doing, including a drill in which he picks up marbles with his feet. Hey, whatever gets you to Dallas.

"We've been doing the works," Cruz said. "We've been doing the bike, hot tub, cold tub, contrasting it, we've been doing a little massage, ice cup. I'm picking up marbles with my feet. A lot of different things were in there, so all of it's been beneficial, which is why I'm here bootless.

"I knew initially that it was just a small bump in the road and that I just needed some time off to get time off the boot and off the foot and get things going the right way."

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