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In many ways, the Philadelphia Eagles and Juan Castillo helped launch Victor Cruz's career.
After only 2 catches for 17 yards in his first 2 games last year, Cruz torched the Eagles for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns on 3 receptions in the team's Week 3 meeting. It started what would be a breakout year for Cruz, who would go on to have over 90 yards in 7 of his next 9 games, and finish the season with over 1,500 yards, 9 touchdowns, and just as many salsa dances.
Cruz was a major problem for the Eagles not only in Week 3, but also in team's Week 11 meeting. What seemed to be the biggest reason the Eagles had trouble with Cruz was how much the Giants moved him around. After this past weekend's defensive performance against the Cardinals and Larry Fitzgerald, the Eagles will have to go into this game with a better game plan if they hope to finally contain Cruz.
How successful were the Giants at using Cruz to move the ball on the Eagles? In the 2 games last year, the Giants targeted Cruz 13 times, completing 9 of them for a whopping 238 yards and 3 TD's. Of course, another big part of the reason Cruz was so successful last year was that once he had the ball, the Eagles had very little luck bringing him down. Cruz racked up 118 yards after the catch last year against the Eagles.
To make matters worse, the only Eagle that had any success against Cruz is now playing in Atlanta. With Asante Samuel on Cruz, the Giants only completed 1 of 3 passes for 8 yards. Nnamdi Asomugha had some success against Cruz last year, allowing 2 catches in 2 games for 52 yards- but he also allowed 1 touchdown, and badly whiffed on a tackle to allow another.
Looking at the other members of the Eagles defense that ended up covering Cruz shows how successful the Giants were in moving around. Jamar Chaney and Keenan Clayton both found themselves matched up with Cruz more than once, allowing over 70 yards. While they did not line up against Cruz, the Giants moved Cruz around to get them on Cruz in coverage, and moved the ball down the field by doing so.
Against the Cardinals, the Eagles were convinced by Todd Bowles to not have one player shadow Fitzgerald, and they paid for it. This weekend, the Eagles would be wise to stick one player on Cruz and have him follow him around before the snap no matter where he goes.
One option might be to have Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie stay on Cruz. DRC has the speed to stay on him, and has some experience on covering receivers in the slot. While he didn't have a great amount of success last year doing so, Brandon Boykin showed last week that while he has been impressive so far, he might not be ready to cover some of the leagues best wideouts.
How the Eagles go about covering Cruz will go a long way this weekend in deciding whether or not they fall to .500 or move to 3-1.
Follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks