Defensive Coordinator John Pagano knows his team faces a stiff challenge this week, especially when it comes to the passing game.
When Eli Manning drops back to pass, he has not one, not two, but rather three explosive, playmaking wide receivers to spread the ball around to.
Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle combine to form a trio that Pagano regards as the most dangerous threesome of any team in the NFL. Cruz leads the way with 66 catches for 931 yards and four touchdowns while Nicks has caught 44 balls for 654 yards and second-year pro Randle has 35 for 544, including a team-high six touchdowns.
“It’s probably the best three wide-receiver (group),” Pagano said. “They’re very complete with Nicks, Cruz and Randle. They’re three guys that can stretch the field.”
“They’re talented,” he said. “They all can make plays. They can make plays after the catch. They’re shifty off the line and quick. Probably one of the better groups in the league and one of the better groups we’ve seen on film. We’ve got our hands full…but we’re excited for that and can’t wait for Sunday.”
While all three pose matchup problems, Pagano stressed the need to limit Cruz.
“You’ve got to be aware of number 80,” he said. “He’s somebody that they like to feature…Any time you get these slot receivers in the National Football League, especially somebody like Cruz, he’s very crafty. Inside he’s somebody that you’ve got to be aware of and you’ve got to be accountable when you cover him. He’s somebody they do a lot of different things with. Offensively they do a great job of really moving him around in different spots to give him different looks.”
Part of what makes Cruz so difficult in the slot is his size. His 6-0, 204-pound frame isn’t huge by any stretch, but it gives him an advantage over most slot receivers.
“It makes him able to go get the ball, especially in the vertical passing game that they like to do and feature him down the middle of the field,” said Pagano. “It’s something that really stretches you, but in the other hand, he has the moves underneath where he’s crafty inside. We have to do a good job of stopping him.”
That said, the defense also know they need to stop Andre Brown, the Giants leading rusher who is playing in just his fifth game this season after breaking his leg in the final preseason game prior to the season.
“Andre Brown runs well,” said Pagano. “He runs hard. He’s a productive back. They do different things with him. You see his game elevating. I think this is his third year in the league from NC State. They are doing a lot better and they are not turning the ball over. That is something that is helping their offense roll.”
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