There hasn’t been a lot of overlap for the New York Giants when it comes to star receivers Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr.
Cruz tore the patellar tendon in his right knee against Philadelphia on Oct. 19. of last season just as OBJ was starting his run toward Offensive Rookie of the Year after missing the first month of the campaign with a nagging hamstring injury.
Fast forward to New York’s spring work and Cruz was limited to individual drills as he continues to rehabilitate his surgically-repaired knee, while Beckham took part in some of the early organized team activities, but was shut down with a sore left hamstring at minicamp this week.
Eli Manning and Co. are hoping both will be able to hit the ground running when the team reports for the start of training camp on July 30.
Cruz, of course, is the bigger issue because the injury he succumbed to in the City of Brotherly Love was as devastating as it gets for a thoroughbred whose very livelihood depends on his legs.
“I think the way I feel right now, (practicing at the start of camp) is definitely the goal and that is where I want to be come training camp,” Cruz said as the Giants’ minicamp wrapped up on Thursday.
His coach had a similar take but tried to temper expectations.
“It is my understanding that he will be ready to participate (at the start of training camp),” Tom Coughlin said. “How limited, I can’t tell you. We will see. We aren’t going to throw him right out there, I can tell you that.”
A stint of the physically unable to perform list is still the most likely end game for the recovering Cruz, a second-team All-Pro selection back in 2011.
“I’m not going to say,” Coughlin responded when asked in the PUP list is an option. “That is not the intent.”
Intent or not, August is not the goal for a player who averaged more than 80 receptions per year from Manning from ’11-14, September is.
“We plan for who is going to be out there,” offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said. “Day one right now as we close up shop at this point, if (Cruz and OBJ) are there, we will welcome them back with open arms. If not, they need to spend their time in the training room and get healthy. We are going to spend our time focusing on who is out there and who is healthy and we will take it from there.”
Beckham, who hauled in 91 receptions for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in his freshman season despite playing in just 12 games, should be healthy by the start of camp but some are starting to worry if his hamstring issues are going to be a consistent issue moving forward.
“(Beckham) just continues to do whatever the plan is for them in the training room,” Coughlin said. “He has been running, but most of it has been straight ahead. But he has been doing that. He will maneuver into the cutting and so on and so forth as he goes forward. He feels better, but he needs to feel a whole lot better.”
Remember, OBJ missed most of training camp last year, the entire preseason and those first four contests with a right hamstring injury.
“As demonstrated last year, he can learn (while siting),” Coughlin said. “He learns a lot about adjustments and what have you even though he is not out there. When he first came back, we didn’t hesitate to line him up every place under the sun and motion, but he can handle it.”
The cautious approach is fine in the spring but Manning needs to know he can count on the talented LSU product consistently when the bell rings every Sunday.
“I want (OBJ) on the field, just like he wants to be on the field,” Coughlin continued. “That is where the next level that he can attain is going to be accomplished, by practicing.”
Cruz and Beckham were together a lot during minicamp trying to develop a rapport as the other receivers on hand carried the heavy luggage.
Receivers coach Sean Ryan was quick to say the off-the-field work is just as important for his dynamic duo, though.
“The meetings are where they have to be great,” Ryan said. “The film study, watching that, catching the coaching points in the meetings and also on the field. It is a challenge for them to stay locked in.
“We talk a lot about mental reps. You have to be disciplined to do it, but they have to see what is happening, hear the coaching points. I do think mentally you can get a lot out of it, but you have to be very disciplined to do that. I think they work at it. I think they probably did get quite a bit between the meetings, the mental reps and the field.”
When Cruz and Beckham ultimately do return they will find a 12-year veteran quarterback coming off one of his best statistical seasons in Manning.
“Eli has put a lot of time and effort into his footwork and his training there and to his upper body and his strengthening and maintenance in those types of things,” McAdoo said. “I like the look in his eye right now. His offseason has been encouraging.”
Encouraging enough for the Giants to end a three-year playoff drought?
“I was impressed by the seriousness this spring,” Coughlin said of his team. “I thought that they came here with the idea of what they had to work on and how they needed to accomplish it, but we will see, everything has to connect.”
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