Coordinator Corner: Gilbride Believes Cruz ‘One of the Bright Spots’ this Season

Tom Uddo

It has been a long, and frustrating season for the New York Giants offense. From the inability to run the ball for a majority of the year, to Eli Manning and the receiving core failing to find any sort of chemistry to generate points.

If there has been just one positive this season, it’s been worth every penny; and that is the play of Victor Cruz, who signed a five-year contract extension worth more than $43 million in July and may be worth way more than that after the struggles of the Giants offense came full-circle.

On pace to break the 1,000 yard marker for the third straight season, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride believes that Cruz has been the focal point of Big Blue’s offense, but it has been a tough year with the kind of coverage he has faced.

“They’re certainly very cognizant of where he is at all times,” said Gilbride when he addressed the media on Thursday. “Sometimes we call it funnel coverage where everybody is man to man and then there is a zone player in there.  Usually that zone player is looking to see where Victor is and then we’ve gotten a lot more doubles. It was like that with Steve Smith at the end, Plaxico Burress at the end.  Those guys faced double coverage all the time and that’s what he’s being confronted with.  Not every snap, but a lot of the snaps.”

Even when up against double coverage and tight man-to-man defenses, Cruz has still shined, while the rest of the receiving core has struggled, something that Gilbride has harped on all season.

“The complimentary receivers have got to come and play.  Whoever has the one-on-one chance, those are the guys who have to win for you,” said Gilbride. “It’s scheme and his [Cruz] ability level, which I’ve been very proud of the progress he’s continued to make.  He’s one of the bright spots of the season.”

This week, Manning & Co. have a tough test in front of them with the Seattle Seahawks, a defense that ranks 1st in the NFL in passing yards allowed (175), 1st in total yards allowed (287), and 2nd in points allowed (205).

While the Giants really have nothing to play for, the matchup against the Seahawks gives Gilbride and the offense a chance to show that there is still something left in the tank after a disastorous season that has many calling for both coordinators to be fired.

“It always gives you an opportunity to test yourself, see how you fare against one of the better teams in the league and certainly one of the better defenses in the league,” said Gilbride. “Our guys are always clamoring for one on one opportunities, you’re going to get more than your fair share of one on one opportunities to win against some pretty good coverage and guys that play very physical.”

One thing that Gilbride noted was the Giants offense is going to have their “hands full” with the Seattle defense; and that might be an understatement come kickoff.