Victor Cruz: Drops vs. Cowboys Prove Giants WR Won't Repeat 2011 Success

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistSeptember 6, 2012

Sep 5, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA;  New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (80) lets ball slip through his fingers during the first half against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE

Victor Cruz didn't do himself any favors with his performance in the New York Giants' loss on Wednesday night. He dropped three passes and looked out of sorts when his team needed him the most.

Let's put Cruz's disappointing game in perspective first. ESPN Stats and Info brought us this tidbit via Twitter following the game:

Victor Cruz has 3 drops tonight. He's the first Giants player with 3 drops in a game since Mario Manningham in 2009 Week 4.

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 6, 2012

How ironic is that? The Giants let Mario Manningham take his talents to San Francisco during the offseason, allowing Cruz's role to increase after his breakout 2011 campaign.

Cruz didn't drop more than one ball in a game last season en route to an 82-catch, 1,536-yard season. He also hauled in nine touchdowns.

The Cruz I saw Wednesday night was a far cry from the 2011 version.

The Giants like to move Cruz all over the field because of his exceptional agility and quickness, but he does the most damage out of the slot. With Manningham no longer in the fold, Cruz is expected to play more on the outside this season.

Instead of making a seamless transition, he struggled. He still caught six passes for 58 yards, but he made critical mistakes down the stretch.

Maybe he can't handle the added pressure. His rookie year painted a massive target on his back, and he won't sneak up on anyone this season. When teams line up against the Giants offense, they will be looking for No. 80.

You also have to consider the Cowboys defense. Adding Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne to their secondary was critical to their 2012 season, and both players delivered on Wednesday night.

But they don't force Cruz to drop the ball. He did that on his own, and that's a concern for New York's offense.

The Giants need Cruz this year, and they expect more from him. Wednesday night's letdown doesn't lend much optimism to his 2012 production and paints him, possibly prematurely, as a flash in the pan.

Cruz does his best work on the inside of an offense. He excels in finding the soft spot in a defense's zone and is sneaky fast, but his hands will keep him from becoming a legitimate No. 2 target for the G-Men.

Expecting Cruz to live up to last season's incredible stat line is tough, but that's the way it works. Wednesday night's drops showed that those conceptions were a bit premature.