For Victor Cruz, it wasn’t the most productive game this past Sunday. With just 22 yards on 3 catches, it could be considered his least productive game of the season. With recent hot hands like Cruz and Larry Donnell limited by Atlanta’s defense and Rashad Jennings injured, the Giants had to rely on youngsters and unknowns to step up and make the difference in order to erase a third quarter ten-point deficit. That is exactly what the Giants got in their two high-profile draft additions, LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. and Boston College’s Andre Williams.
Given the way New York’s offense has been flying in recent weeks, the long anticipated debut of Odell Beckham seemed likely to be more of a cameo with an eye to be slowly integrated into the group rather than an instant impact role. But when the Giants found themselves down in the second half and in need of a spark, the former LSU receiver rose to the occasion on his debut and delivered, including his first touchdown reception to give the Giants the lead.
Cruz, thrilled with the rookie receiver’s debut, knows how difficult the Giants will be to stop on offense if Beckham’s performance was a sign of things to come.
“Amazing,” Cruz said of Beckham’s debut. “He is a good player. He works so hard to get out there on that field. For him to come out and have a big game and score a touchdown, I think it is indicative of the type of person he is. With him making plays, I think it is going to be tough to beat all of us.”
In fact, Cruz said the impact Beckham had on Atlanta’s defensive approach was instant. The Atlanta defense, sitting close to the line of scrimmage to defend New York’s short passing attack, found success disrupting the quick firing approach. Once Atlanta took a ten-point advantage in the third quarter, Eli Manning fired deep to Beckham twice early on the following drive, one of which led to a significant defensive pass interference penalty. Cruz noticed the difference from thereon out.
“I think they had to take account for it a little bit more,” Cruz said of Beckham’s deep threat ability. “I think they had to understand that he is also a threat. They played us differently from then on. They played a little more of cloud coverage. A little bit more of a man underneath. They tried to bump and run us. They are going to have to change some things up when he is out there on the field and that is good.”
With such a big impact in his first game, expectations for Beckham will only get higher. While it would be unfair still to expect too much, the impact he can have going forward on the Giants offense is evident. If Beckham is as ready to slide in as a full-time starter as he looks, the Giants passing offense could be legitimately one of the leagues best sooner rather than later.