Victor Cruz: New York Giants' WR Emergence Against Philadelphia Eagles Explained

Steven HughesContributor ISeptember 28, 2011

Giants receiver Victor Cruz (No. 80) scores his second TD against the Eagles in Week 3
Giants receiver Victor Cruz (No. 80) scores his second TD against the Eagles in Week 3Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants fans alike watched on Sunday as the Giants No. 4 receiver as of Week 1 shredded the Eagles pass defense for 110 yards and two touchdowns on only three receptions.

It all started with an eight-yard toss to Victor Cruz. Cruz caught the pass on the left sideline and shrugged off a tackle by Eagles safety Kurt Coleman.

As he blazed down the sideline, Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha came to help make a team tackle. As the prolific cornerback dove to tackle the six-footer, he collided with Coleman as Cruz squeaked through both tacklers on his way to a 74-yard touchdown to put the Giants ahead 14-0 in the first quarter.

Surely it was the poor defense that allowed Cruz to reach the end zone, right? Well, Cruz answered doubters to show his first touchdown was no fluke.

With the game in the balance in the fourth quarter, Eli Manning ran a play-action pass from the 28-yard line, throwing to the end zone with two Eagle defenders collapsing toward the football’s downward trajectory. Manning must be looking for Hakeem Nicks this time. He has to be, right?

No. It was Cruz once again.

He elevated over Asomugha and safety Jarrad Page for a catch at the 1-yard line before allowing his momentum to carry him past the goal line for six points, giving the Eagles a 20-16 lead with eight minutes and change remaining in the game.

Who was this guy? Where did this raw talent come from and how did he possibly beat the NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles? Eagles fans need to look no further than Rex Ryan and the New York Jets for an explanation as to who Cruz is and what he can do.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 22: Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants  in action during their pre season game on August 22, 2011 at The New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

August 16, 2010 marked a Monday night preseason matchup between the New York Jets and New York Giants. It was the battle for New York, with both teams trying to figure out their rosters heading into the 2010 regular season. For Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, it was the discovery of a diamond in the rough.

The starters for both teams watched the second half from the sidelines, with backups and young talents attempting to impress their coaches and make the cut. A receiver lined up wearing No. 3 for the Giants found himself matched up against then-Jets cornerback Dwight Lowry. This six-footer made a phenomenal one-handed catch from Giants backup Jim Sorgi early in the third quarter, stretching it into an amazing 64-yard touchdown.

The Jets figured out who made the play only because they all had to chase the back of his jersey. Who could it be? You guessed it, Victor Cruz.

Later in the fourth quarter, Cruz drew attention from then-Jets cornerback Drew Coleman. The undrafted player out of UMass broke the press coverage from Coleman and darted down the sidelines. Sorgi heaved up a 34-yard lob for Cruz, who met the pass in stride on his way to the end zone for touchdown No. 2.

The Giants led 24-16 in the final 2:25 of the fourth quarter. The Giants’ third-string quarterback Rhett Bomar had the Giants in scoring position and it seemed only right to feed the hot hand. Bomar dropped back and threw a five-yard fade to Cruz, who used his ball skills to shield Dwight Lowry from the play once again for his third touchdown.

Cruz finished his first preseason game with six catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns, and needless to say, he made the roster. It took the departure of former Giants receiver Steve Smith (to Philadelphia) and injuries to Mario Manningham and Domenik Hixon for Cruz to get playing time, but his dazzling performance against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3 wasn’t where it all began for Cruz, as many NFL fans surely assumed.

Instead, this diamond in the rough was discovered on a hot Monday night in August 2010 during the New Meadowlands' debut, in a meaningless preseason game.

We just didn’t notice.