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New York Giants Coach Tom Coughlin: Victor Cruz Will Play Before Domenik Hixon Tonight

August 29th, 2011 at 3:42 PM
By Simon Garron-Caine

One of the more interesting battles we’ve been following this preseason is the head–to–head between wide receivers Victor Cruz and Domenik Hixon to be the 3rd WR on the field. Giants101 caught up with Tom Coughlin at last week’s ceremony for the naming of MetLife Stadium, and coach confirmed that Cruz will be on the field first in the third preseason game, possibly indicating the young Cruz has a leg up on Hixon.

Chicago Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox (13) reacts as he falls while trying to reverse direction in front of New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (80) in the first quarter of their pre-season NFL game in East Rutherford, New Jersey August 22, 2011. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

“Most of our objectives are personnel, not X and O,” said the coach about the team’s goals in the game. “Victor will be the guy that we’re looking at in the slot.”

The battle between for 3rd WR has been a hard one to follow. We presumed Cruz to be the leader coming into camp, but Hixon and his knee have looked healthy and caught a few passes so far this preseason. Does Cruz getting into the 3rd preseason game indicate he’s taken the bull by the horns?

Not necessarily. As Coughlin stressed, the goal here is “evaluation” and it would make sense for the Giants to give Cruz some time with the starters so as to evaluate him. They should already know pretty much what they have with Hixon.

But, clearly, Cruz’ mind blowing preseason performance last year has given him an opportunity to show what he’s got, and his performance thus far has, at the very least, earned him a chance this 3rd preseason game, which means he’s either the leader in the competition or under serious consideration.

Here at G101, we’re always looking for clues on these kinds of things. So we asked Eli Manning if he had a preference for 3rd WR and here’s what he said:

“I think the more receivers you have the better. We have guys obviously in Domenik Hixon, he’s played for us, been a starter at certain times, Started games. So he’s a guy we can move him around also, play him different spots. Victor Cruz is gonna be in there playing. We have a number of guys and all of them work hard and know the offense and what we’re trying to do.”

Not to put words in the quarterback’s mouth (his goal was clearly to say “we have a lot of weapons, we’ll be OK”) but he seemed to have a little more to say about Hixon, didn’t he? Of course, he did lob Cruz a back shoulder fade on 4th–and–4 last week, so he must trust the kid a little bit right?

“Victor has worked hard and is a guy who did some good stuff last year, had the injury and didn’t get a whole lot of time during the regular season and practice in. But he’s had a good offseason, was at all the workouts we had…and so, he’s done a good job understanding our system…the more live reps you get in a game the better.”

Of course, we’ll find out about this all soon enough and Victor’s performance tonight will have a big effect on any outcome. While we’ll meet in the comments section to debate the merits of Cruz and Hixon, let’s turn to one more source for his opinion: former Giant great Amani “Drag My Toes” Toomer.

“I like Domenik Hixon. He’s the one I’m most familiar with from playing with him. I think Victor Cruz has some consistency issues as well. Domenik Hixon’s been in the league, he is a proven guy who has come in and made some really big plays for us.”

We expect to hear the arguments for Dom Hixon in the comments section to sound much like that. From my perspective, the Giants are lucky to have a healthy Hixon back this year because a trusted, veteran receiver is just what the doctor ordered for this unit that’s now devoid of Steve Smith. However, Cruz appears to us a potentially explosive weapon and likely to have a much higher ceiling. We wrote several times last year that Cruz would be a bargaining chip and/or fallback plan if negotiations with Smith got tough. It looks like he’ll get the chance to prove he can be that fallback plan starting tonight.

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