By Zach Gad
With a recent string of training camp injuries, the Giants could experience some production problems at two important positions, wide receiver and running back. This is troubling news for Giants fans who are hoping for their team to bounce back from last season’s 7-9 finish.
At receiver, the team is most worried about Odell Beckham Jr.’s hamstring problem. The nagging injury has sidelined the LSU product for much of training camp. Although hamstring issues are common in today’s NFL, this injury could be particularly painful for the Giants. The team has little depth at wide receiver, and sitting out gives Beckham less time to work directly with quarterback Eli Manning.
After No. 1 wideout Victor Cruz, the receiving corps has tons of questions. Rueben Randle had a strong season in 2013, catching 41 passes for 611 yards and six touchdowns. But he has dealt with minor injury issues during training camp and will be asked to play a bigger role after the departure of Hakeem Nicks.
Besides Cruz and Randle, Beckham might be the third-best receiving option. Mario Manningham is back this season after a brief stint with San Francisco. He saw success early in his Giants career as a slot receiver and even had 60 receptions for 944 yards and nine touchdowns in 2010. But after tearing his ACL and PCL in 2012 as a member of the 49ers, he hasn’t looked the same. Behind Manningham on the depth chart sit Jerrel Jernigan, Trindon Holliday, Travis Harvey and others that won’ t contribute much in the event they make the team.
As if their receiver problems weren’t enough, the Giants have fresh concerns over what appears to be a serious injury to David Wilson. The tailback was drafted by New York with the No. 32 pick of the 2012 draft. After a mediocre rookie campaign and an injury-shortened sophomore season, the Giants were hoping for Wilson to make a large contribution in this year’s offense.
The Giants have another option at the position, Rashad Jennings, who projected to be the starter after signing this offseason. But Jennings’ upside is low. In his first three years in the league, he never rushed for more than 460 yards in a season while serving as a backup to Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville. In his “breakout” year with Oakland in 2013, he started eight of the 15 games he played and rushed for 733 yards and six touchdowns.
For now, the other running backs on the roster are rookie Andre Williams, Peyton Hillis, Michael Cox and Kendall Gaskins. Williams and Gaskins have never played a down in the regular season. Cox rushed for only 43 yards last season. And Hillis hasn’t done anything significant since his career 2010 season, a clear outlier in which he ran for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns.
At a position as volatile as running back, the Giants would have loved to have both Jennings and Wilson available. Now they face the unappealing option of Jennings as the workhorse.
All NFL teams suffer injuries, and, in some instances, they have to overcome season-ending ones to key players. The Giants hope to be able to play well despite early setbacks, but if they keep getting hit with the injury bug, this season could look similar to – if not worse than — last year’s disappointing campaign.