After an offseason of obsessing about the right side of the offensive line, it seems everyone has found a new obsession: What will happen with Victor Cruz?
An overwhelming majority of the questions I received for this, the first (of many) SNY mailbags, had to do with the Giants' once-star receiver who, after nearly two years of trying to comeback from a knee injury and a calf injury, is now battling a "sore groin." The offseason assumption that he would be back as good as ever has been replaced by worry that he might not even make the team.
That worry is probably a bit premature, given that we've still got nearly a month to go before the Sept. 11 season opener in Dallas. But as I wrote last week, there's good reason to worry about Cruz given his recent history of injuries, his age, his lengthy time off, and the fact that almost exactly one year ago he suffered a seemingly minor injury that resulted him missing the entire season.
What are your feelings in regards to Cruz? Can he come back? - Mary Fox (via Facebook)
Straight to the point and symbolic of about 25 other similar questions I received. The honest answer is I just don't know if Cruz can come back. It's hard not to root for him. He's been a terrific Giant and has always seemed like a good guy, and I know - from talking to him, his teammates and his personal trainer - that he has tried very, very hard to make it back from that devastating knee injury he suffered in Oct. 2014. I know people have criticized him in the past for concentrating too much on off-field activities, but that's always been ridiculous and unfair. The guy works. He trains harder and more often than is generally known.
But he's almost 30 and it sure looks right now that his body isn't holding up to the rigors of the NFL. By all accounts, he had made it almost all the way back from that knee injury when, last August, he suffered a minor calf injury that became something major. The same thing occurred again this year when he looked like his old self, right up until he suffered a sore groin.
The Giants say that's minor, and that they won't give up on Cruz, and they're even hopeful of him returning to practice on a regular basis soon. But they said the same thing last year when the calf injury first happened, so I just don't know what to think.
I will say this, though: I think the Giants will give him ample opportunity to make his way back. And by that, I mean I don't think he's in danger of being cut at the end of the summer. First, remember he took a huge pay cut in the offseason so it's not like the Giants would save a lot of money by releasing him. Second, according to my math (and the math of the people at Spotrac.com) it would actually cost the Giants slightly more in cap space to cut him. I think if he's not ready for the opener he's more likely to land on the short-term injured reserve list.
Unless he or the Giants determine that he just physically can't make it back, in which case maybe they would cut him or he'd retire. I have no idea if they're even close to determining that, though. Right now they think it's a minor setback. I'll take their word for it, but I won't forget what happened when I took their word for it last year.
Do you think Rashad Jennings will top 250 carries this year? -- @The_Gildz
That would be something since Rashad Jennings career high was the 195 he had last year and he's 31. While I do think the Giants are prepared to make Jennings their No. 1 back and let him hold that role much more regularly than he did last season, I think 250 carries is a bit high. Remember, Shane Vereen is still the third-down back and he'll be the guy in the two-minute drills, plus Andre Williams is going to get a couple of series a game, either just to spell Jennings or to relieve him if Jennings is struggling or hurt.
Also, I don't think the Giants want him to carry the ball 250 times. There will be some games where he gets 20, but my guess is he's going to average around 15. Now, granted, that would be 240, which is pretty close, but I think a number of factors - injuries, other backs getting hot, the flow of the offense - are likely to knock that number down a bit. Over the years the Giants have made it a point to use multiple running backs as a way of keeping everybody fresh for the end of the season and (hopefully) the playoffs. I assume that will be the case here, too.
Are the Giants really set on still keeping Andre Williams? -- @Djones1236
First, remember this: The Giants don't give up on draft picks. Williams was drafted in the fourth round three years ago, which means it wasn't all that long ago that the Giants were really high on him. Yes, he was terrible last year. But he's still inexpensive talent with a lot of potential, so he's not going anywhere.
Second, McAdoo likes him. At the combine in February, about a month after getting the Giants' job, McAdoo said "I think a lot of people may be willing to give up on Andre. I think it may be early for that." And he predicted a "bounce-back year" for him.
I think - and some people in the Giants' organization agree - that Williams' awful 2015 was in part the product of how he was used, in that ridiculous four-RB rotation where nobody could get into a rhythm. It also didn't help that the line was not great at run blocking. Yes, Williams needs to rise above that and he didn't. But that's not a good reason to cut him.
So this year he will likely be the No. 2 RB behind Jennings, probably picking up 2-3 series per game - more if Jennings struggles or gets hurt. And the Giants still believe there's a chance that Williams can be the workhorse back of their future, too.
Do you have any concerns about the depth at QB? -- @davecarroll15
I have a concern, but honestly I've had it for years. Nothing against Ryan Nassib, who is probably perfectly capable of being a good NFL backup, but my preference, is always to have a battle-tested veteran in that job. It's not always possible, but I'd feel better knowing the backup can step in, if necessary, and wouldn't play like a rookie. He'd ideally have game experience so he won't be awed by the spotlight or unnerved by the speed of play. That's what the Giants had for a while with David Carr as their backup.
Granted, guys like that aren't always available, but in Nassib the Giants have nothing but an unknown. They know he knows the offense and he's looked good in practice and had some terrific preseason games (last week's dud notwithstanding). But he's only thrown 10 regular season passes, in mop-up duty, and every NFL player will tell you that the speed of the game in the regular season is much different than the preseason.
Would it be too much for Nassib? Who knows? And that's the point. If Eli Manning ever were to get hurt and miss a few games, the goal of the Giants' backup would be to not make too many mistakes and keep the team afloat for as long as he's in there. A veteran is better suited to do that than a player making his first start who could be unnerved.
Maybe Nassib wouldn't be unnerved. Maybe the moment wouldn't be too big for him. But nobody knows until he finally gets thrown into that fire.
And if he can't do it … Who knows what else the Giants will have? Logan Thomas, the third-stringer, has done fine in camp, but he's even less proven. Besides, the Giants often carry only two quarterbacks.
So the bottom line with this team is pretty much what it's been for years: Keep your fingers' crossed that Manning's consecutive games played streak keeps going all year long.
Which UDFA's, if any, stand out for NYG so far? -- @AngryNYfan
There have been a few that have stood out at a few different practices, but probably the most consistent one - and the one with the best chance of making the team - is receiver Roger Lewis. The undrafted free agent out of Bowling Green probably would've been drafted if not for a somewhat checkered past. But strictly measuring on-field stuff, he seems to have the hands and speed to stick around, even if he could stand to get a little bigger (6-feet, 196 pounds). He has gotten plenty of opportunities, looked great on deep passes, and even taken a few reps with the first team.
His status might hinge on the availability of Cruz for Opening Day. Then again, the way he's looked, he might make the team outright. What he does in the next few preseason games will tell that tale.
As for some others, it's always difficult to tell in camp about linemen since the pads aren't on all the time and the hitting is minimal. But it's worth nothing that Greg Milhouse, a UDFA from Campbell, opened camp as a starter at defensive tackle. Granted, that's because Damon Harrison and Jay Bromley both began on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. But the Giants had other players they could've put in that spot. The fact that they chose Milhouse, straight out of Campbell, tells you they like him enough to give him a good long look.
And one player I've really been impressed with is DE-turned-LB Ishaq Williams from Notre Dame. He's a bit of a project since, counting the Giants' preseason opener, he's only played in two actual football games since 2013 (he was among the suspended players in the Notre Dame academic scandal) and it won't help his cause that he's switching positions, no matter how similar they are. But he looks fast and instinctive and the Giants seem to be impressed with what he's done. He's probably got a better shot at the practice squad, but the Giants aren't exactly overflowing with quality linebackers, so you never know.