Gilbride is confident he will have Cruz in the slot when the Giants play this season. But it doesn't hurt to prepare Jernigan if Cruz sits out voluntary OTA workouts.
"I guess I have great confidence that it's going to get done, so I don't give it a lot of thought because I know he wants to be here," Gilbride said last week about Cruz. "I'll be honest with you, I'm kind of excited until he gets back. I'm certainly looking forward to him getting back. But certainly I'm looking forward to seeing Jerrel Jernigan and what he can do inside."
Jernigan was drafted in the third round in 2011 as a slot receiver. Until Cruz comes to a long-term extension deal with the Giants, the coaching staff should give Jernigan more reps in the slot with Eli Manning.
"I know each year you are going to need new guys to step up," Manning said at a Guiding Eyes for the Blind event in White Plains on Monday. "[You] lose some guys, and if something happens you always want to be prepared. And hopefully Victor is back very soon and will play at a high level.
"Jerrel has to also be able to help us," Manning added. "He has speed and skills, he's been in the system now for a number of years. So hopefully he can step up and fill a role for us. The more talented guys you have on the team and make plays for you, the better off you will be."
Jernigan is entering his third season -– a time when some young receivers usually emerge into contributors and come into their own.
"I think it's about time that he steps up," Gilbride said. "And I think we feel he has enough ability and he's been here now long enough. Until Victor gets back, he'll be the main guy inside at the slot position.
"It's a chance for him to shine and step forward and do the things that we believe he can do. ... I think we want to see what Louis Murphy can do outside, but really it's JJ inside. It's going to be a great opportunity for him."