Jerrel Jernigan getting reps in the slot

Sam Spiegelman

Though a deal may be close, Victor Cruz has not yet made an appearance at Giants camp.

That means there is a slot to fill.

In Cruz’s absence, third-year wideout Jerrel Jernigan is getting reps as the slot receiver. Though offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride expects Cruz to return to the team this season, he doesn’t think it can hurt to allow Jernigan to have some opportunities.

“I’ll be honest with you, I’m kind of excited until he gets back. I’m certainly looking forward to him getting back,” Gilbride said. “But certainly I’m looking forward to seeing Jerrel Jernigan and what he can do inside.

“And I think we feel he has enough ability and he’s been here now long enough. Until Victor gets back, he’ll be the main guy inside at the slot position.”

Jernigan was drafted in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Troy. In two seasons with New York, he has racked up all of nine grabs for 22 years.

Eli Manning expressed optimism about the progress of the Cruz contract, adding he was hopeful to see his favorite target back before next week’s organized team activities. The Giants quarterback also left some wiggle room, calling Cruz’s absence a great opportunity for the younger players.

“I know each year you are going to need new guys to step up,” Manning said at a Guiding Eyes for the Blind event in White Plains on Monday. “[You] lose some guys, and if something happens you always want to be prepared. And hopefully Victor is back very soon and will play at a high level.

“Jerrel has to also be able to help us,” Manning added. “He has speed and skills, he’s been in the system now for a number of years. So hopefully he can step up and fill a role for us. The more talented guys you have on the team and make plays for you, the better off you will be.”

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