New York Giants
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Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, who was clearly frustrated after the 24-14 loss to the Steelers Sunday in which he didn't have a single ball thrown his way, had his much-anticipated chat with head coach Ben McAdoo Wednesday morning.
"He came up to me," Cruz said. "I came into the building, we were getting ready for our first meeting and he came up to me and was like, 'You are coming to see me, right?' I was like, 'Yeah, I am coming to see you.' Shortly after, I came and saw him and we spoke and then that was it. He was receptive to what I was saying, I understood everything he said and we took it from there."
It's been a weird season for Cruz, who returned after back-to-back season-ending injuries. Declaring himself fully healthy and capable of taking on a full workload, Cruz has seen both his pass targets and his game snaps decrease in favor of rookie Roger Lewis Jr.
Since returning from the bye week, in fact, Cruz has only been targeted eight times, catching three balls for 131 yards and no touchdowns.
His 563 game snaps (73 percent) through 12 games pales in comparison to fellow receivers Odell Beckham Jr. 740 snaps, 96 percent) and Sterling Shepard (734 snaps, 95 percent), prompting some to wonder if the Giants were perhaps trying to phase Cruz out of the offense.
Cruz admitted that between the loss last week and his lack of targets, there was frustration on his part.
"I think just in the moment a little bit of frustration because you want to help your team, you want to perform and you want to play," he said. "But after that I quickly understood. Right after a game tempers can flare and you can feel a certain way, but it is a matter of just understanding what is in front of you and getting ready for the next one."
Cruz said his review of the game tape showed that there were times when he was open enough to be targeted, but also added that there were other circumstances, such as quarterback Eli Manning being under duress or needing to get rid of the ball quickly made it impossible for the two to connect.
Rather than dwell on the past, Cruz said he is hopeful that starting this weekend against the Cowboys, he can contribute to the passing game.
"I leave every meeting feeling like that," he said. "But obviously, I think there will be some concerned efforts to get everyone the football and get everyone involved, including myself, so to answer that in short, yes, it feels like I will be getting at least one target this week."
Meanwhile, Manning, who two weeks ago said he apologized to rookie Sterling Shepard after failing to get him the ball in the Giants' win over the Browns, said he plans to have a discussion with Cruz.
"I haven't had a chance to get with him yet but yes, I'll talk to Victor," he said. "He's one of the receivers and we're good buddies. We'll be fine."
Manning said it's important to him and to the team's success to make sure the ball gets into the hands of its playmakers, including Cruz.
"We have to get him the ball. He's a playmaker for us. Unfortunately, Shep didn't get a target last week, and Victor didn't get one this week. We just have to get everyone involved, get them catches and get them going."
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul's regular season is over.
The 27-year-old Pierre-Paul underwent surgery Wednesday morning to repair a sports hernia injury suffered in last week's 24-14 loss to the Steelers. Pierre-Paul was injured late in the second quarter and did not return.
His recovery time is estimated to be between four and six weeks with the earlier scenario putting him back in time for the start of the postseason should the Giants (8-4) qualify.
The loss of Pierre-Paul couldn't have come at a worse time for the Giants, who are hoping to end a four-year skid without a postseason berth, but who must hold their own against four opponents, three of whom are in the division, to get there.
Pierre-Paul finishes the regular season with 7.0 sacks and 16 quarterback hits, one shy of defensive end Olivier Vernon's team-leading totals of 8.0 sacks and 16 quarterback hits.
Pierre-Paul had sought a second opinion regarding what was initially diagnosed as a groin injury from Dr. William Meyers, a noted sports hernia expert, with whom he met Tuesday morning.
Later that day, Pierre-Paul strolled through the locker room without a limp, declining to speak to reporters who had been admitted for the daily media session.
Following his surgery, the eternally optimistic Pierre-Paul tweeted two short messages to his followers, saying, "Surgery went well and feeling way better already. God is good. Time to heal up."
With there being a chance of Pierre-Paul returning for the postseason, the Giants are expected to carry him on the 53-man roster. However, with defensive end Owa Odighizuwa trying to rehab a sprained MCL suffered two weeks ago, the Giants' depth at defensive end will almost certainly need to be supplemented.
Head coach Ben McAdoo wouldn't specify what the contingency plan is to replace Pierre-Paul, but the belief is that the Giants will turn to Kerry Wynn, a run-stopper on running downs and a rotation of Romeo Okwara and, if healthy, Odighizuwa in pass-rushing situations.
Strong-side linebacker Devon Kennard, who has played as a down lineman since Week 9, is also a likely possibility to take some of Pierre-Paul's snaps in packages that saw the defensive end move inside to defensive tackle.
"Guys have to step up," said linebacker and defensive captain Jonathan Casillas. "We have guys behind (Pierre-Paul) that I believe are going to do a really good job."
Despite his vote of confidence, even Casillas wasn't able to deny just what a huge loss Pierre-Paul, who has played in 91 percent of the defensive snaps this season, really is.
"No one is JPP," he said. "No one can really do the things that he can do for us or for anybody, so it is going to be different things that might have to do. I don't know what that is quite yet, but his presence will be missed out there."
Pierre-Paul was playing on a one-year, $10 million contract this season, a deal he settled for to prove to the NFL that he could still be a dominating force after blowing off the tip of his thumb and his index finger on his right hand.
Pierre-Paul, the Giants' first round draft pick in 2010, had not missed a game in his first three seasons, that streak ending in 2013, when he played in just 11 games. Since then, he's only made it through a 16-game season once, that being in 2014, when he finished with 12.5 sacks, his second highest career total.
Despite this latest health setback, Pierre-Paul is still likely to be a highly sought after free agent this offseason if the Giants don't lock him up to a long-term deal before then.
Although the Giants have a new head coach and a new attitude to go along with it, unfortunately, they're still very much familiar with the after-effects of losing a key cog to the team.
Such was the case in the team's locker room Wednesday, just hours after star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia in Philadelphia.
"We wish JPP a speedy recovery," said head coach Ben McAdoo. "We'll use an all hands-on-deck approach to fill his shoes. It won't be easy to do, but we have confidence in the players in the room."
Those young players include rookie Romeo Okwara, second-year man Owa Odighizuwa and third-year man Kerry Wynn, all of whom have different skill sets.
"Romeo I feel like is very good at setting the edge and getting to the quarterback," said defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins. "Kerry Wynn is probably one of the best at stopping the run. We have a great group of guys that can get the job done."
Despite their confidence and their words to the contrary, it was hard not to miss some of the energy missing from the locker room as they began their preparation for their big matchup Sunday night against the 11-1 Cowboys.
"I didn't feel like the moon burst or anything like that. I just feel like now we know what it is and we know what we have to do. The more we win, the more of a chance we'll see him again," said defensive tackle Jay Bromley, who has lined up next to Pierre-Paul as part of the defensive interior rotation.
"That was tough losing him but I'm confident we have some guys who are going to step up and get the job done," added Hankins. "We all have to step up now. We'll see how it goes and see where it leads."
"JPP is such a valuable asset on this team," said Odighizuwa, who is hoping to contribute if he is cleared medically from a knee sprain suffered two weeks ago.
"We wish he was out there with us, but these things happen. The best thing we can do now is rally around him and be there for him and get ready for Dallas."
It's hard to miss the brotherly-like affection Pierre-Paul's teammates have for him.
"JPP is a unique character on and off the field," said Bromley. "I've never seen anyone like him on the football field, a player who moves the way he does and creates havoc the way he does. He was special because he could improvise. We have game plans but we would go out there and he'll look at you and sometimes what you think he's going to do he won't do, but it still works."
Safety Landon Collins said the best thing the Giants can do for their fallen teammate is to play lights out starting this Sunday.
"If we keep on playing and winning these games, he's going to be back in no time," Collins said. "If we play like we're down and don't bring it all then he's going to be down even more because we won't be in the playoffs."
BY THE NUMBERS: 8 - Number of career 300-yard passing performances Giants quarterback Eli Manning has against the Cowboys in the regular season. The Giants are 4-4 in those games, and 1-2 in home games in which Manning has topped the 300-yard passing mark.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"They haven't lost since the first game. I think I remember who beat them that game." - QB Eli Manning on the streaking Cowboys, who visit MetLife Stadium Sunday night.