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I am a Victor Cruz fan as much as the next guy. But if that next guy is an irrational and overly-zealous supporter blind of the issues Cruz can create, then I might have to take a step back.
There is no doubt that the breakout player of the NFL season was Victor Cruz. In his first complete NFL season, the 25-year-old out of UMass had 82 receptions for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns. Impressive numbers for an essential rookie.
But what really made him astounding and electric is the way he went about it getting those numbers.
He made big play after big play and changed the game with his elusiveness and open-field speed matched by no defensive back. His 99-yard touchdown against the New York Jets helped them get into the playoffs, and his touchdown in the Super Bowl was critical to the win.
However, logically you have to be concerned with the type of player Victor Cruz is.
Cruz is an okay route runner, with decent hands and excellent speed. The way he makes big plays is not by being a bigger, stronger and better athlete than his defenders, but by feeding off of their mistakes.
The 99-yard touchdown was a short pass that cornerback Antonio Cromartie misjudged. Cruz, to his credit, took advantage of the miscue and turned it into a game changer.
But in the Super Bowl, Cruz was pretty quiet. Bill Belichick was able to silence him with an inferior defense by making sure they played it safe and did not make mistakes. He didn’t mind Cruz catching eight-yard out routes as the cushion did not allow for a mistake that could lead to a big play.
There are very few great wide receivers in the league who can do it year-in and year-out. Coaches will take Belichick’s model and adapt it to a way that makes Cruz’s impact not as great as it was this season.
The Giants are almost certain to lock him up in a longer deal as he deserves it given his performance this season.
But Manningham may provide the better value in terms of what he can bring to the field. About the only thing Cruz has on Manningham is speed, but like I said, that could be nullified by playing a defense to counter it.
Other than that, Manningham has better hands, is a stronger route runner and has the size you want for deep-field threats.
Cruz will not be a free agent until 2013. He should have one more year to prove he is the real deal before an extension is offered.
Overall, If you are going to give Cruz the money now, you might as well give it to Manningham. It is a safer bet in the long run, and you will still have the chance to re-sign Cruz next year.