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Media Takeaways: Cruz hits slight speed bump in road to return

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1. Calf injury won't be a "huge hindrance" for Cruz.


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The journey back from a season-ending knee injury is long and difficult, and wide receiver Victor Cruz hit what he believes will be nothing more than a speed bump after missing yesterday due to a minor calf strain. The good news for his fans is that it was unrelated to the knee but will likely delay his preseason debut until next week against the Jets. Cruz said today that he doubts the staff will let him play this Saturday against the Jaguars in the second preseason game.

"It wasn't going to be easy the rest of the way," Cruz said. "I knew there would be something that would come up. Whether it be out here on the field or with my body, but I'm excited that it's not something that's major. It's something I can get over, and something that's not going to be a huge hindrance."

2. Minus a tooth, Pugh will return to practice; Odell, too.

Some people chuckled when they heard Justin Pugh and Odell Beckham Jr. missed Wednesday's practice after both coincidentally underwent dental work. But the reason will wipe the smiles off their faces. Pugh, primarily playing left guard this summer, had a fractured molar that became infected over the course of the last six months.

"They kept telling me I was grinding my teeth," Pugh said. "I had to wear like a night guard; it was ridiculous. Then they found out, finally once it got infected, that there was probably something wrong with it more than just grinding my teeth. I had to go to the oral surgeon to get the image they needed to finally see, so they took the tooth out, put a bone graft in, all this stuff. I didn't know you could do all that. It wasn't fun. Now there are stitches, so they wanted to keep me out just to make sure the stitches healed up well and it wasn't a reoccurring problem… I'd definitely rather practice than having to go get teeth pulled and not have a back right molar for two months."

A day later, Pugh said he will be back today. As for Beckham, he'll also be grinning when he returns to practice, coach Tom Coughlin said.

3. Pugh hopes to lock down left side with Flowers for years to come.

With Will Beatty on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, the Giants have none of their core offensive linemen that were instrumental in winning their last two Super Bowls in 2007 and 2011. That's why the new group has to form its own identity, beginning with recent draft picks like Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg and Ereck Flowers. Like the first two, Flowers is in line to start from Week 1 as a rookie.

"I'm excited to see where he's going," Pugh said of Flowers. "He's a guy—he's got the right attitude, the right demeanor, work ethic, he's a tough guy. He wants to be out there and he wants to win, and I saw that in the game against Cincy. We were communicating very well, and that's something that's huge to do. If you're playing on the same side with somebody, you have to have a certain chemistry with them. Me and him are getting that every day, more and more. It's exciting and hopefully me and him will be on that left side for years to come."

4. Right side of offensive line likely to remain the same.

Opposite Flowers and Pugh, Marshall Newhouse and John Jerry are likely to remain at right tackle and right guard, respectively, for the upcoming preseason game against Jacksonville, while Geoff Schwartz is back after missing last week. "Same combination," Coughlin said. "But, obviously, Schwartz is going to get his opportunity to play in there."

5. Starters to last longer in second preseason game.  

After the starters lasted roughly one quarter in the preseason opener -- Eli Manning was under center for four series that extended into the second quarter -- Coughlin said the first teams should "play a little more probably than they did the other day" in the second game against Jacksonville.

Additionally, Coughlin said newly-signed veteran safety Brandon Meriweather will play "a limited amount since he's been here a very short time and this will be his first experience."

6. Thomas expects a run-heavy game against former team.

Linebacker J.T. Thomas III played the last two seasons under head coach Gus Bradley in Jacksonville before joining the Giants this offseason. As his current and former teams go head-to-head this weekend, Thomas knows what to expect from both sides.

"I think both teams want to run the football, and that's important," said Thomas, who had 12 tackles and a fumble recovery in the end zone for a touchdown last season against the Giants. "I know that's something that Gus kind of harped on when I was there, and of course that's something that coach Coughlin looks forward to being able to do -- establish the run game. That will be the battle on defense between both defenses, seeing who can come out and impose their will on the opposing offense."

7. Quinn focuses on punt game.
 

While half the NFL has not allowed any, the Giants have given up four punt returns for touchdowns over the last two seasons. On the other side, Big Blue is 27th in averaging just 7.5 yards per return in that span. Additionally, touchbacks on kickoffs have been more prevalent since the starting line was moved up, which has resulted in more time to focus on the punt game.

"We want to make a big difference on the opponent's punts and our punts," special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said. "We need to see a big swing there; we spent some money with bringing guys in to get that done.

"I mean you focus on all of them, you don't neglect one or the other but kickoff and kickoff return nowadays, half of the kicks are returned and half of them are covered. But all the punts are punt returns and that is the biggest impact nowadays, so we have to really make that go with a lot of time and effort."

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