And also assume that Hakeem Nicks can stay healthy for an entire season – a big assumption certainly.
But if the above scenarios occur coupled with new roles and additions, the Giants could have one of the top receiving corps in the NFL next season.
It certainly helps that whoever lines up on the outside will benefit from having Eli Manning at quarterback. Manning has shown he can make receivers like Cruz or Mario Manningham better football players.
So that’s definitely working in the Giants’ favor.
But the addition of speedster Louis Murphy may go down as an underrated signing. General manager Jerry Reese said he believes Murphy can be the deep threat that the Giants have lacked the last few years.
Nicks can be considered a deep threat, but he is more effective over the middle. He gains big yardage by breaking tackles and using his speed to out-run defenders after he makes a catch.
Cruz, of course, is excellent in the slot, which is especially key on short-yardage third-down plays. And just like Nicks, Cruz has the ability to catch the deep ball, but it really isn’t his forte.
Enter Murphy, who has the ability to downright sprint by an opposing secondary. Manning has the arm strength to lay the ball up there and have Murphy go get it.
Not only can this speed be a weapon in and of itself, but it also requires a defender at all times. As a result, Nicks and Cruz could then have more space to work with, giving Manning tons of options.
Throw in newly-signed tight end Brandon Myers – who caught 79 passes last year for the Raiders – and the potential of youngster Rueben Randle, and the Giants have the makings of a dynamic aerial attack.
Having all these options is great, but that doesn’t mean the team can simply bypass trying to bring back Cruz. In fact, Cruz really is the glue that would hold this receiving core together.
If defenders key on Cruz on short yardage plays, Nicks could get open over the middle or Murphy could break free deep.
This receiving core would thrive on feeding off each other, with Randle really providing injury insurance or an additional weapon in obvious passing situations.
The Giants could still try to bring back Domenik Hixon or Ramses Barden. Hixon has an offer from the Lions, and it would be tough for Big Blue to find a role for him – assuming, of course, Cruz stays.
Barden, though, would be a nice insurance option, especially given Nicks’ injury history.
If Cruz is back in blue and everyone stays healthy, the Giants will be a dangerous passing team. Unfortunately, this is much easier said than actually done.
If it were easy, Cruz would be locked up to an extension, which would then allow the Giants to focus on other needs.
Hopefully soon there will be some sort of solution to the Cruz conundrum. If things work out for Big Blue, watch out: The Giants passing attack will be extremely potent.
Follow Jim Mancari on Twitter @JMMancari.