Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Manning to Cruuuuuz

One more note on the TD pass that won the game for the Giants. The play was perfectly conceived and was read the same way by the QB and the WR. Giants had 3 WRs on the field, 1 TE and 1 RB. They used their "trips formation" with 2 WRs and the TE lined up on the right side of the offense. Hixon was out wide, Bennett was lined up as TE and Cruz in the slot between them. Nicks was alone on the left side of the offense. The Redskins played man-to-man underneath with two safeties back in a cover 2 zone, one on the right side of the field and one on the left.  Bennett was matched up with a LB and CBs were on Cruz and Hixon. The repsonibility of the S is to see which WR is running deep and to give help for that DB. The CB covering Cruz was slightly inside him and the S was in between Hixon and Cruz, giving outside help on Cruz and inside help on Hixon. Cruz had a great break off the line of scrimmage and beat his man almost immediately. It looked like he was already behind him about 5-6 yards off the line of scrimmage. But the S didn't give immediate help on Cruz for two reasons: (1) Cruz has such great feet that he still may have been planning to cut off his route and break to the sidelines. (2) Hixon was running a deep in cut, so for the first 15 yards or so, he was streaking down the sideline and it looked like he may have been the one that was going deep. Therefore the S had to wait a second to judge which WR was going long and therefore which one needed help. Of course, he who hesitates is lost. Hixon finally broke to the inside and Cruz continued deep. By the time the S figured it out, Cruz was past him by a few yards and on the way for the 77 yard TD. The S was probably playing a little too tight to the line of scrimmage which didn't give him time to react and change his coverage. But the play was beautifully designed and executed. The interesting thing about the Giants offense is that Cruz and Manning both had to read the defense the same way - this was not necessarily the play called in the huddle, but was simply one of the options available to them to run. Both QB and WR saw the opportunity to split the double coverage; one of them had the talent to beat the coverage while the other had the talent to make the throw.

I love Hakeem Nicks, think he will be a star in this league for several years, but in some ways, Cruz might be a more valuable player to the team. When teams look for slot receivers, they look for guys that are quick, nimble, can stop on a dime to catch the ball in traffic and have great hands to possess the ball and convert those third down plays. The outside WRs are the big play guys with speed, size and strength. When you have a guy like Cruz that has both the ability to be a possession type receiver as well as the speed, strength and quick feet to be a big play threat, he provides a weapon at a position that most teams don't have. If Nicks were not on the team, Giants might be able to find another big play deep threat on the outside; there seem to be lots of them floating around the league and many coming out of college every year. But there are no players who play the slot and are dangerous big play guys like Cruz. Furthermore, the Giants offense under Gilbride is very complex, has lots of options and reads and requires soemone with a high football IQ and who makes the same reads as the QB to be successful. It is obvious that Cruz has this figured out and is always on the same page with Eli. Giants should make sure to sign him to a long term deal so we can see that salsa dance for many years.

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