One of the greatest wide receivers to ever wear a Giants uniform believes the franchise has found its next star at the position.
"I think Jalin Hyatt reminds me of Justin Jefferson," Victor Cruz told FanBuzz, during a wide-ranging conversation, on behalf of Captain Morgan. "He's lengthy, long, fast, has a huge catch radius, can catch a lot of different type of balls in the air, he can go get it."
Hyatt, chosen by the Giants in the third-round of April's NFL Draft, introduced himself to the world by pulling down a 58-yard catch and run from quarterback Daniel Jones that helped spark New York's 31-28 Week 2 comeback win. Finishing with a pair of receptions for 89 yards against the Cardinals, Hyatt seems to have established a role for himself as the Giants' deep-threat at the position.
"He reminds me of Justin Jefferson in his abilities," Cruz said. "There's always a maturation process to understanding the game, easing him into the game, but I think he's going to be a really good player for the Giants for years to come."
That's high praise, coming from Cruz, comparing the Giants' rookie to arguably the NFL's premier wide receiver talent, who is fresh off an 1,800 yard season with 25 career touchdown receptions through his first three-plus seasons.
But, the Giants believe they have a dynamic playmaker they can build around — and help hasten quarterback Daniel Jones' development, especially thanks to Hyatt's world class speed, after clocking a blazing 4.40 40-yard dash during the NFL Combine.
"We came in here and drew some plays up and they were like, 'We're going to hit you on this post,' " Hyatt told reporters following Sunday's breakout win. "I told D.J. right before we broke out of the huddle, 'Throw it. Just throw it.' He trusted me and threw it. I wish I scored, but great outcome."
Hyatt seems to be building a strong chemistry, and more importantly, trust with Jones which could set the stage for a dynamic rookie season for the former Tennessee standout.
While Hyatt led the way against Arizona, Cruz doesn't necessarily believe the Giants' roadmap is going to include zeroing in on one playmaker in the passing game.
"Daniel Jones hit seven different pass-catchers this past week," Cruz explained. "Those are the type of games they need to have, in order to be successful."
Cruz has high expectations for Jones' future, believes Jefferson is the measuring stick by which other receivers in today's game are judged, and made his selection of the current quarterback he'd most like the chance to play alongside, if given the chance.
Q&A With Victor Cruz, on behalf of Captain Morgan
FanBuzz: You won a Super Bowl with Eli Manning, the Giants committed to Daniel Jones this offseason, what do you see out of Jones that gives you confidence he can get the Giants back to competing for Super Bowls?
Victor Cruz: "I think when I see Daniel Jones, I just see his ability — and this year more than last, his ability to just rally his guys. Not so much with his words, or saying anything in huddles, I don't think he's that type of guy. But, with his play. His emotion, the way he plays, with the way he'll play through anything, his never give up attitude. I think all those things encompassing, really make him special, and everybody kind of rallies around that.
"I see a guy who's taken a step. It took about 6.5 quarters for us to see it, but I think he's a guy who's taken a step in the right direction leading a team, especially leading a comeback last Sunday. Now, he's ready to take the rest of the season head on, bring his team around him, and take them to the promised land."
What, in your opinion, was the biggest difference for the Giants in the second half of that game against Arizona? What sparked them after being outscored, like 60-0, through their first six quarters of the season?
"As a coaching staff, I think they did a nice job of making some adjustments at halftime. And, really putting Daniel in opportune areas to make plays, calling some differing things, throwing Jaylin Hyatt in the game, and even just doing what he does best, giving him the opportunity to make a play, and he comes down with it, he had another big catch late in the half, I think. The coaching staff put Daniel Jones in a position to win, in a position to be comfortable with the plays that were called, comfortable with his decision making, and the biggest thing was his decision-making in that second half.
"When Daniel didn't have it, when there was nothing downfield, he ran, and got the first down, got the necessary yards, didn't really get any negative yards on those plays. That's a big help. If you can stay in front of the chains, stay ahead of the downs, be in opportune third down situations, I think that's what really benefited Daniel Jones in the second half against the Cardinals."
You're obviously intimately familiar with what it takes to be successful in a Giants uniform, how vital strong receiver play is in today's game to competing for Super Bowls ... In your opinion, have the Giants done enough at receiver?
"I think at receiver, I had some question marks going into the season, based now what they had, what they needed. Then, you see guys like Mike Evans were out there potentially to be had via trade, but I think they have what they need at receiver.
"I think they have depth, for the first time in a long time. I think getting guys like Jalin Hyatt into the mix, and getting him more involved will help the offense. I think they're one of those teams that's a receiver by committee [approach.] They're going to need everybody to have all hands on deck."
Let's take a step back and look at the league broadly, who is the best young receiver in the game today?
"Justin Jefferson, to me, is the guy who seems to be at the top. He seems to be the one that is on a team that he's absolutely the No. 1 priority for. I think he relishes in those big moments the most, and has the most opportunities to do so. His skill-set, between his route-running, catching the football, going up and making the catch over the top, catching the low balls, there isn't a catch within his purview that he can't make. So, when you have those abilities, I think that's what makes you the No. 1 guy at the moment."
Okay, let's have some fun. I just built this time machine, and I want to try it out. Let's head back in time a few years and put Victor Cruz in the prime of his career. You can take one current quarterback, not named Patrick Mahomes, with you to be the guy leading your offense. Who's your choice? Who's the quarterback in today's game you'd most want to play alongside of?
"I've always loved the quarterbacks, since my time with Eli Manning, guys who like to stay in the pocket. Who likes to throw the ball down the field, and is one of those traditional type quarterbacks. I would go with Joe Burrow. He's a guy I really love watching the past couple years, mainly because of what he does from the pocket, how he can deliver the football down the field accurately. As a slot receiver, as well, I love having an accurate quarterback who loves the pocket, that's exactly what I need. I'm getting in between those linebackers, those safeties, timing is very important, and I think Joe Burrow understands that. I know he's off to a rough start this year, but he understands that more than most quarterbacks. I'd go Joe Burrow here."
So, tell me more about your partnership with Captain Morgan, what can fans look forward to this season?
"I've been partnered with Captain Morgan for a few years, and I think what we're doing this year is better than ever. Go to Followthecaptain.com to get all the information, there's adventures, you can see me on these ads throughout the entire season, you're going to see a QR code that can unlock so many different prizes, so many cool things, different adventures, and after three years, they're letting me have my own watch party, so you can win tickets to the party, and have a good time hanging out with me and a bunch of other artists."
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