The Giants’ running game hit rock bottom last year mainly due to injuries, but it was clear they needed some fresh legs in their offensive backfield. As the Giants move forward with their new offensive plan, OC Ben McAdoo looks for specific traits in the backs he needs to run his offense.
“First and foremost, the runner needs to be able to protect the quarterback,” McAdoo said back in an interview in late February with Giants.com. “He also needs to be able to run with the ball in his hands and do that well. You’d like to have a complete back. Obviously, it’s ideal to have a guy who’s functional out of the backfield catching the football, but at the end of the day, if they can’t protect the quarterback, they’re going to have a hard time getting on the field.”
That is one of the pet peeves of Tom Coughlin. He needs his backs to be able to block. David Wilson, the team’s 2011 first-round selection, could not block sufficiently and did not get on the field as a result. Wilson’s career is uncertain right now, as he has not been medically cleared to play, but the Giants have apparently moved on.
Rashad Jennings, signed in free agency this past winter, is as close to a complete back as they come these days. The Giants retained Peyton Hillis, another physical and well-rounded player, with a two-year deal. They also have second-year RB Michael Cox, a big, strong back that they hope develops into an effective between-the-tackles runner and also as a receiver.
With depth and quality still on their minds, they selected Andre Williams of Boston College in the fourth round of the draft three weeks ago. Williams led the nation in rushing in 2013, and will certainly add more toughness to the unit, but his receiving skills are questionable. Not to say that Williams can’t catch the football, it’s just that he hasn’t been asked to. Coughlin recently quipped: “Who says we have to throw it to him?”
The new offense may just ask Williams to catch the ball regardless. McAdoo wants the threat of the screen pass in play at all times. If you’ve been following, the Giants have not been very successful on screen plays. Eli MAnning, in fact, has been specifically bad (see Week 1 against Dallas last year). That’s about to change.
“We’re definitely going to spend time in the screen game,” McAdoo said.”It’s something that will be a focal point and needs to be installed. We’ll have different types of screens, whether they’re sidewalk screens or half screens, so fourth and so on, just like everybody else in the league. At the end of the day, it comes down to fundamentals and guys getting enough repetitions where they’re productive.”
Wilson would be perfect for screen plays. He’s not a strong scrimmage runner and needs to have the ball tossed to him in order to be effective. But Jennings and Hillis catch the ball very well out of the backfield, too, and they will be the ones to carry this new wrinkle forward. Now the question remains: can Eli learn how to toss a screen pass without a DE or LB grabbing it out of the air?