INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Ben McAdoo's first season as an NFL head coach could turn on the recoveries of two key players, Jason Pierre-Paul and Victor Cruz.
Speaking at the NFL combine Wednesday, McAdoo focused on the need for a game-changing pass rusher, Pierre-Paul's specialty before he lost his right index finger and damaged the hand in a fireworks accident last July 4. The former offensive coordinator who replaced Tom Coughlin in charge of the Giants in January also noted that slot receiver Cruz
is expected to be on the team for 2016 after being sidelined throughout last season.
''I spoke to Jason a couple of different times so far throughout the offseason. He seems in good spirits,'' McAdoo said. ''He went through a procedure and we'll have to see how that goes.''
Pierre-Paul underwent surgery on the hand after the season, hoping to improve flexibility. He will need to prove to any team interested in signing him as a free agent that he can return to his All-Pro level of play, of course.
Pierre Paul returned to the Giants for the final eight games and started them all. He provided a bit of a lift to the pass rush, although he managed only one sack. Pierre-Paul struggled to finish plays with his hand wrapped to protect it.
Should Pierre-Paul be back with the Giants, McAdoo said it hasn't been determined if defensive end will play without the ''club'' on his hand. Considering that the Giants ranked dead last in overall and passing defense in 2015, they certainly could use him if his skill set is not diminished too much.
''It was obvious when Jason came back last year how disruptive he was without playing football for a long time,'' McAdoo said. ''Just coming in and having a couple weeks to get his feet underneath him, being able to go out and be disruptive as a pass rusher, I just think when you look at him and his ability to get off the ball and get after the quarterback, it's easy to see. And that's something that comes natural for him. You don't think that's going to change anytime soon? I don't either.''
Cruz hasn't played since tearing the patellar tendon in his right knee in the sixth game of 2014. He lost all of last season with a calf problem that required surgery.
His contract calls for Cruz to collect $7.9 million next season, with a cap hit of nearly $10 million. So a restructured contract could be in the works for Cruz, who when healthy offers a strong complement to Odell Beckham Jr.
''Yeah, I had a chance to get in touch with Victor; he was by the office the other day just kind of bouncing around, he was doing some rehab,'' McAdoo said. ''He seems in good spirits, looks great, feels good. Hopefully we have a chance to get him healthy.''
Does McAdoo expect him to be on the Giants in 2016?
''Absolutely,'' the coach said. ''Right now we're taking a look at things and he's on the roster right now. If anything changes, I'll be the first to know.''
McAdoo also said he has had some interaction with Coughlin, who still is employed by the Giants.
''No, not awkward at all. I respect Tom,'' McAdoo said of that dynamic. ''Have talked to him a few different times since he left. I feel we have a strong relationship. I'm going to bounce ideas off Tom as long as I can bounce ideas off of Tom. He's someone I have a tremendous amount of respect for, and I'm grateful for everything that I learned from him.''
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