Film Room Checkup: Victor Cruz
November 16, 2013 | Sammy Mayers
The past four weeks have not been especially kind to Victor Cruz. Despite the Giants climbing out of a 0-6 hole and into NFC East contention, Cruz has not been a major contributor as of late. Since his 3 touchdown performance Week 1 in Dallas, Cruz had gotten in the end zone just once. He’s also only had one game with more than 5 catches since the last Sunday in September. It is somewhat noteworthy that Cruz’s targets have decreased by a tad in recent weeks. In the first 5 games of the season, which happened to all be losses, Cruz was targeted 11 times a game on average. Through the last 4 games, 3 of them wins, Cruz has been targeted 8 times a game. 8 targets per game is still a solid amount of targets but any type of decrease in targets for a receiver is a bit concerning.
In this past week’s game against Oakland, Cruz was targeted 10 times. He ended the day with 3 receptions totalling 37 yards, and his touchdown drought remained intact. How much of this can be blamed on Cruz and how much can be blamed on Manning’s poor play this season; let’s go to the film room to check it out!
From the very first play of the game, you could tell that Eli Manning was just off. Quite frankly, he’s been off pretty much all season. On this play, Cruz was the intended target all along. He was running a comeback route on the right side of the field and he was essentially in single coverage.
Hakeem Nicks came open in the middle of the field but Manning was locked onto Cruz the whole way. This is important to note because it shows that despite how much Eli is struggling, Cruz is still his go-to guy.
Cruz begins to create separation between himself and the cornerback as he is coming back to make the catch. Eli seems to throw the ball right on time and it should be an easy first down.
However, the ball is thrown a few feet too high and it falls incomplete despite Cruz’s acrobatic effort. Manning has made these throws in his career, he needs to start making them for Cruz to be at his top fantasy value.
In year’s past, this upcoming play probably would have been a touchdown. Cruz is running a slant route to the middle of the field. The play design leaves him in single coverage on this route.
Jernigan and Nicks’ routes confuse the Raiders secondary and Nicks gains a step on the corner covering him. If Manning releases the ball and puts it in the right spot at this point, it is an easy touchdown for Cruz.
The throw comes a split second late and is a little bit behind Cruz. It was still a catchable ball but Cruz could not haul it in.
Here is an alternate angle showing where the ball was thrown compared to where the ball should have been thrown. (Yellow circle is where the ball should have been placed, black is where it ended up)
This play is very similar to the first play we looked at. Cruz is lined up on the bottom of the screen. He is running a comeback route again.
When Cruz comes out of his break at the top of the route, the safety begins to come help out the cornerback but it is too late. Cruz has a decent cushion of space in between himself and the cornerback.
When he turns around to make the catch, the ball is thrown a few feet to his right. This should be an easy throw for Manning to make and he just missed it. Cruz is clearly getting separation but his quarterback is letting him down.
This is the last and most frustrating play we will explore. Cruz is positioned in the slot and is running a little hitch route. If this play is executed properly, it should be an easy touchdown.
The defense gets confused and two men converge on Brandon Meyers. This leaves Cruz WIDE OPEN at the top of his route. All Manning has to do is complete an easy 7 yard pass and Cruz walks into the end zone for a score.
Manning misses the throw badly and Cruz is left flailing his arms.
Summary of the tape:
Any time Victor Cruz is targeted 10 times in a game, he should end up with more than 3 receptions for 37 yards. He simply gets open way too much for him to have a 30% reception rate. Manning needs to start making the easy throws for Cruz’s stat lines to look better on Sundays. Going into the game, I was slightly concerned about Cruz’s decrease in targets but this is a non-issue. He is still the most targeted Giant and is a huge part of their passing attack. It is certainly a positive sign that Cruz is still being targeted a lot in the red zone, the touchdowns will start to come.
It is still pretty obvious that Manning’s play must improve for Cruz to get back to WR1 status. I personally believe that Manning’s play will improve enough for Cruz to be top 10 receiver the rest of the way. I’m also hoping the Giants continue to win so their games down the stretch remain important. Manning trusts Cruz in big situations and he could be a big part of a Giants playoff push. Now is the perfect time to buy-low on Cruz, I expect his production to only go up from this point going forward.