Cruz: Nicks' return crucial for Big Blue

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- For New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks' return to practice Wednesday was a welcome sight.

"I'm happy to have him back -- period. Just to have him back in the huddle, in the offense, on the sideline, dressed and ready to go. He's a guy we need," Cruz said. "We need him to be his normal self in order to win games, for our moral to be up, stuff like that. We're definitely happy to have him back."

After Nicks missed Sunday's game against Dallas with an abdomen injury, Nicks returned to practice in a limited capacity in preparation for Sunday's game at Washington. Cruz believes a healthy Nicks can help an inconsistent Giants offense round into shape for the home stretch.

Nicks did not speak to the media Wednesday.

"I think Hakeem getting back and getting ourselves back on track and getting the offense back to where it was will definitely be paramount in order to get ourselves back on track for these last five games," Cruz said. "We're excited to have Hakeem back and to have the chance to do so."

While Nicks has had a mediocre season thus far, with just 42 catches for 620 yards and zero touchdowns, the Giants' passing attack looked out of sync without him against Dallas. Against the then-worst passing defense in the NFL, Eli Manning totaled just 174 passing yards. The Giants did run for 202 yards, which mitigated the need for a big passing game, but the aerial attack never truly exploited Dallas' defense.

Despite entering the season with what was expected to be one of the premier passing offenses in the NFL, the Giants have rarely lived up to the hype. Manning has thrown for less than 300 yards in each of the last six games and has tossed for less than 200 in two of the last three games.

"We've got to find ways to win our matchups and for everything to start clicking," Manning said. "From protections to winning the one-on-ones, to throwing the ball accurately, we got to make sure we're very sound in everything we're doing."

Sunday's game against Washington could present a good opportunity for the passing game to get back on track, although last week figured to be a great opportunity too. Washington ranks 26th in passing yards allowed per game and has struggled to shut down opposing offenses.

Cruz hopes Nicks' presence can help galvanize the offense.

"He's another weapon out there for us that we definitely need. With him, myself, Rueben [Randle] -- put all of us on the same page, clicking on all cylinders, we're a tough team to beat," Cruz said. "Especially with Andre Brown now stepping into form and doing the things he does well, I think we're a tough team to beat.

"Having [Nicks] there is just an extra weapon that gives us more ability to do what we need to do on offense to win games."