EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — For Victor Cruz, the sky— literally — is the limit.
Chasing a Pro Bowl dream, a new contract at season’s end, and another NFC East title, the Giants receiver has helped his cause in all areas with hugely-important catches in big games this year. But his longest grab — way longer than the 77-yard touchdown snare he made vs. Washington in Week 7 — came straight out of the clouds.
Contractual issues haven’t been a distraction for Cruz — who has been Eli Manning’s most reliable receiver this season.
Cruz, New York’s leading receiver with 63 catches, 779 yards and eight touchdowns, recently corralled a football dropped from a high-flying airplane as part of a promotional campaign to snare that desired Pro Bowl spot. His girlfriend, Elaina Watley, proposed the idea, and Cruz agreed that it couldn’t hurt, since he is among the Top 10 receivers in fan balloting.
Stunts like that are often seen in collegiate races for awards such as the Heisman and Outland trophies. But for someone trying to turn the $540,000 he earned in the third and final year of his undrafted free-agent contract into millions of dollars, every little bit help.
Cruz’s popularity couldn’t be higher among Giants fans who enjoy his trademark salsa dancing and important touchdown grabs.
“I’ve seen some different videos where guys promoted themselves for the Pro Bowl,” Cruz said. “Just little things, like how some guys train and things like that. I just wanted to do something cool. It keeps people interested, and maybe gets some traffic toward the Pro Bowl.
“It was a good idea.”
Catching touchdowns is an even better idea. Cruz ended a three-game drought with one on Sunday in the 38-10 trouncing of Green Bay. The nine-yard grab over the middle put the Giants up 24-7.
One disturbing aspect of his game, though, is drops. He had 11 last year, in his breakout season, and already has nine this year, tied for the most with New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham. Cruz had three in the opener vs. Dallas.
“He catches most passes,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “(Drops) are just part of playing wide receiver. He knows it and understands it, and he comes back to the huddle knowing he’s going to catch the next one.
“He always comes back to the huddle and forgets the last play and is always ready to go out there and do his job the next play.”
Cruz caught a team-high 82 passes for a team-record 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns last season.
“I don’t really think about the drops,” Cruz said. “I just keep pushing forward, go to the next play, the next opportunity to make something happen.
“I don’t know what other receivers think about when they drop a pass or do something that’s regarded as wrong. That’s what sets me apart. I don’t think about the negative. And even when things go wrong, Eli still trusts me. He still comes to me and looks to me. It’s definitely a positive to have a guy like that believes in your talent.”
Cruz struggled some while fellow receiver, Hakeem Nicks, nursed a foot injury. It was only against the Packers that Nicks appeared to have his old speed and elusiveness back, just in time for the Giants’ division clash with Washington (5-6) on Monday.
If Nicks is indeed back to full strength, the Cruz-Nicks combination could be that much more effective against a Redskins secondary anchored by DeAngelo Hall. The cornerback recently proclaimed it didn’t take “a rocket scientist” to see the Redskins had blown their coverage in Cruz’s game-winning catch Oct. 21.
Cruz posted a seven-catch, 131-yard effort in that first meeting, and is a prime reason why the Giants (7-4) are two games ahead of the rest of the division.
“I’m just ready, he said, “to make another playoff push.”
NOTES: After just one meeting, DE Justin Tuck deemed Redskins QB Robert Griffin III the fastest quarterback he’s ever seen, replacing Philadephia’s Michael Vick. “I’d like to see a race between a young Michael Vick and RGIII,” Tuck said. “The one thing about RG is his poise. He’ll keep his eyes on the tight end down the field while (Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul) and me are chasing him.”. S Kenny Phillips, who came out of last week’s game with an aggravation of his right knee injury, spent the media portion of practice on the stationary bike but could get back to work Friday. … T David Diehl (shoulder), RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), and C David Baas (shoulder) did not practice Thursday, but LB Jacquian Williams (knee) returned for individual drills following a five-game absence. … WR Domenik Hixon (ankle) returned to full practice after missing the Green Bay game.
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