By Edward Lee
4:35 PM EST, December 19, 2012
At 6 feet and 204 pounds, Victor Cruz is the second-shortest wide receiver on the New York Giants and the third-lightest. But Cruz’s impact on the Giants offense figures to loom large for the Ravens and cornerback Corey Graham.
When New York employs its three-receiver set, Cruz usually lines up in the slot, where he leads the NFL in productivity, according to Pro Football Focus. And if he lines up in the slot this Sunday, it will be up to Graham to match up against him.
“Victor Cruz, he’s great off the line” of scrimmage, Graham said prior to Wednesday’s practice. “He’s a very quick, elusive guy. He’s a matchup problem. So he’s definitely a challenge.”
Cruz is one of only 14 receivers in the league this season who has amassed more than 1,000 receiving yards (1,019), and he is tied for ninth in receptions (79). But Cruz is quarterback Eli Manning’s favorite target on third down, where he is tied for fourth in the NFL in catches (26) and sixth in yards (364).
Graham said more than anything, Cruz’s greatest strength in the slot is his quickness, which he uses to avoid contact with an opposing defensive back.
“He’s very quick off the line, and he does a great job against the press,” Graham observed. “I would say that he’s a very quick and elusive guy. By no means is he slow or anything like that. He’s done a great job out there with pretty much everything he’s doing. I would say his quickness is what makes him who he is.”
Graham, who isn’t exactly a slowpoke, said his plan is to mix up tactics against Cruz. If he’s playing physical on one snap, Graham said he wants to show Cruz something different on the next snap.
“Sometimes you want to be up there and be physical and sometimes you want to play off,” Graham said. “You’ve got to switch it up. He’s a great receiver and he’s doing a great job in there in the slot and making a lot of plays for them. You’ve got to find a way to not allow him to make those plays. You’ve got to switch it up. You can’t do the same thing every time.”