You can already hear the cheers echoing throughout MetLife Stadium.
In one memorable, record-breaking season, Victor Cruz became the salsa-dancing hero New York Giants fans—and Eli Manning—have been waiting for. Now, those same fans and the Giants organization hope to see that nearly unstoppable Cruz at it again in 2012.
For Cruz, the sky’s the limit. He evolved into the NFL’s top slot receiver last season while combining with Hakeem Nicks to form a lethal force invincible to opposing defenses’ attempts to stop them. Many expected Cruz to parlay his exceptional performance—a franchise record-setting 1,536 receiving yards—into a pay raise, but the Giants didn’t budge and the local boy from Paterson, New Jersey could not care less. He just wants to play football.
Cruz will get to do just that, because as long as he’s performing as he did in 2011, the starting job will be his forever in New York.
Of course, that will require Cruz to keep his focus on football, a task easier said than done when you incur success and a plethora of opportunities in the Big Apple. But while Cruz spent the offseason doing fashion shows, awards shows and book signings—he released his autobiography Out of the Blue in July—all of his activity in the spotlight was merely just a way to stave off his desire to hit the gridiron for the time being.
Football season is here, folks, and Cruz should enter this season more driven than he ever has before. For two years it was about earning his spot on the roster; now, he must prove he isn’t a one-hit wonder worth more in endorsements than his true value on the field. He has a contract extension waiting in the wings if he can replicate his 2011 performance and continue to be a dependable, dominant force for the Giants passing game. And, of course, he has another Lombardi Trophy beckoning the grasps of him and his teammates once again this February in New Orleans.
In 2011, no one besides Cruz expected No. 80 to have such a breakout season. This season, all eyes will be on him. There will be no dancing under the radar, getting overlooked in favor of the accomplished Hakeem Nicks. Defenses know about Cruz and they will prepare for him.
Unfortunately for them, there isn’t much they can do to stop him.
Cruz’s speed and quickness in and out of cuts is unparalleled; his big play threat ability is top notch. Add in the defense’s need to account for Nicks, as well as any other receiver on the field—Manning has never been one afraid to spread the ball around—and opposing defenses are handcuffed. How do you slow down the fastest man on the field without leaving the Giants with another option?
That was the trouble for many of the Giants’ opponents last season. It will be again in 2012.
With the help of what should be an improved running game behind the healthy legs of Ahmad Bradshaw and speedy rookie David Wilson, Cruz will see plenty of opportunities to reproduce his spectacular sophomore season for Big Blue.
So driven to succeed this season, Cruz could very well dance his way to a new contract and hopefully—and most importantly—another Super Bowl victory for the Giants.