By Sean Hartnett
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Week 5 was a learning experience for 24-year-old Giants receiver Victor Cruz. On one hand, Cruz showed fans his big-play ability. But it’s obvious that he’s a work in progress and still finding his feet in the NFL.
On Sunday against the Seahawks, Cruz set a career high with 161 receiving yards. The Paterson, New Jersey native made two phenomenal catches including an acrobatic one-handed tipped reception that gave the Giants their fourth-quarter lead.
It seemed that Cruz was on his way to being named the player of the game but it all went to pieces from that point forward. Two crucial turnovers by Cruz later that quarter cost the Giants from completing a victory over Seattle.
He was stripped by Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor on New York’s next drive after making a reception in Giants’ territory. It allowed the Seahawks to tie the game with a 43-yard field goal. Lawrence Tynes was able to regain the Giants’ lead with a short 26-yard effort of his own.
Cruz was given another shot to redeem himself nearing the two-minute warning. Eli Manning rolled out as Cruz streaked down field past Seattle coverage and made another fingertip catch. It was a vital lifeline for Big Blue as his 41-yard grab took the Giants from their own 35-yard line to the Seahawks’ 24-yard mark.
Three plays later, it was Cruz’s fingertips that betrayed him. As Cruz made a cut, he slipped but regained his balance to reach out for the football but could not make the one-handed catch. Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner secured the up-for-grabs ball in the air and marched 94 yards into the Giants’ end zone.
Although Cruz’s mistake directly cost New York any chance of a comeback, he wasn’t the only Giants player to turn the ball over on Sunday. It’s easy to point the finger at one player for a high-profile blunder but he also made the plays necessary to keep his team alive earlier in the game.
It must have been infuriating for Giants fans to see the good, the bad and the ugly from Cruz in the span of one game but he’s a young player who is becoming more involved in the G-Men’s offense with every passing week. When watching Cruz, it’s clear that he has a ton of potential and his agile catches have shown fans that he is a serious talent.
Once he finds the consistency and maturity needed in his game, Giants fans will be delighted with their trio of gifted receivers. Along with the all-world capable Hakeem Nicks and deep-threat Mario Manningham, a more experienced Cruz will combine to provide a difficult task for opposing secondaries around the league.
Experience is the key word with Cruz. It’s just a matter of time before he puts it all together. His ability is immediately apparent and Week 5 is a lesson that he can learn from as he continues his progression into a reliable target for Eli Manning.
Giants fans – what are your expectations for Cruz in his career? Can be rebound from this week’s disappointments and be a big contributor against the Bills in Week 6? Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.