Victor Cruz: 2015 Comeback Player of the Year?

During a Week 6 match-up against the Philadelphia Eagles on October 12th, 2014, New York Giants star wide receiver Victor Cruz suffered a torn right patellar tendon injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the 2014 season.

With Cruz’s injury, the Giants lost not only one of their captains, but arguably Eli Manning’s most consistent wide receiver of the past few seasons. Despite the panic and heartbreak that Cruz’s injury caused among Giants fans and administration alike, fans were uplifted by the emergence of breakout rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

The weeks following the Cruz injury gave New York Giants fans the luxury of watching Beckham Jr. dominate opposing competition. However, the rookie’s success left some Giants fans wondering what direction the 2014 season could have taken if Eli Manning had a healthy Cruz alongside Beckham Jr.

Photo Courtesy of http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.1982649.1413940767!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_970/456696540.jpg
Photo courtesy of New York Daily News

In 2014, under first-year offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and his new West Coast offensive scheme, Victor Cruz experienced some expected inconsistencies and growing pains at the start of the season. Through the first six games, Cruz amassed only 23 receptions for 337 receiving yards and one touchdown, while averaging 14.7 yards per catch and 56.2 yards per game.

If Cruz’s statistical production was averaged out over the entire season, he would have ended the year with 61 catches, 898 receiving yards and 2.67 touchdowns.

Prior to the 2014 season, however, Cruz’s statistical output was as follows:

  • During his breakout season in 2011 alongside primary receiver Hakeem Nicks, Cruz amassed 82 receptions for 1,536 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, while averaging 18.7 yards per catch and 96.0 yards per game.
  • In 2012, with a drop in reliability from Nicks, opposing defenses began to focus more heavily on an increasingly threatening Cruz as he produced 86 receptions for only 1,092 receiving yards and ten touchdowns, while averaging 12.7 yards per catch and 68.2 yards per game.
  • In 2013, with Nicks becoming a non-factor and Eli Manning without a secondary receiver option, Cruz continued to draw more attention from opposing defenses and was limited to 73 receptions for 998 receiving yards and four touchdowns, while averaging 13.7 yards per catch and 71.3 yards per game in only 14 games in 2013. Cruz missed the final two games of the season due to injury.

Without a secondary receiver option for Manning, opposing defenses would continue to assign double-coverage on Cruz and prevent him from being the impact player that he was in his 2011 debut season.

However, when Cruz returns for the 2015 season, opposing defensive coordinators will have difficulty targeting solely on Cruz.  Odell Beckham Jr.’s impact will force defenses to choose which star wide receiver they believe can be stopped with single coverage.

As this nightmare matchup looms for opposing defenses, especially early on in the 2015 NFL season, be on the lookout for Victor Cruz to shine once again for the New York Giants offense.

If Beckham Jr. can force double coverage, expect Cruz to exploit man-to-man or single coverage from 2015 Giants opponents. With a potentially resurgent season for Cruz, he could end up holding the trophy for NFL comeback player of the year when all is said and done.

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