Jim Mancari, ContributorUsually a unit that is ranked 29th in the NFL doesn’t have too much excitement surrounding it.
However, the Giants’ running game, averaging just 69.9 yards per game, all of a sudden looks like a multifaceted entity that could actually be a weapon for this team.
Again, the eventual grade will be based on production up until this point, not the future. But it’s important for us to look at what this unit may look like in the second half.
A few new faces have given the running game a shot in the arm. Brandon Jacobs rushed for 100 yards against the Bears, and Peyton Hillis has put together back-to-back solid games in his first extended action of the season. Even Jon Connor has contributed as an effective run blocker at fullback.
“We’re blessed with those guys coming in here this late of date and trying to contribute to the team,” said running backs coach Jerald Ingram.
We were supposed to be treated to a two-headed running back scheme this season featuring the electric David Wilson and consistent Andre Brown. But Brown broke his leg in the preseason, and Wilson has been sidelined with a neck injury.
Even before the injury though, Wilson was completely ineffective, especially with the fumbling problems. Still, he is a vital weapon to this offense.
In the meantime, Jacobs and Hillis have given the running game a new identity. These are two big, powerful guys who seek out contact, which could in turn wear down a defense, thus making the passing game more effective.
Brown is expected back in Week 10 and Wilson hopefully will be ready around the same time, so the Giants will have four legitimate backs.
“What you do as a coaching staff is you try to find what they do best and try to fit it to what we’re trying to do,” Ingram said. “Once you separate all those different categories of plays, it kind of works itself all in.”
Ingram mentioned the New Orleans Saints of a few years ago, which featured four running backs: Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory and Darren Sproles – all of whom were worked into the offense.
Maybe a unit of Wilson, Brown, Jacobs and Hillis is not as talented as the Saints, but Jerald Ingram is up to the challenge of getting all four involved in the offense.
“Once you figure out what each one does best and how it works within your quarterback, you can get it done,” he said. “I think that’s what we’ll continue to do as these guys come back. They’ll all have a role, and there isn’t a selfish guy in there.”
The one thing going for the Giants’ running game is that each back has something to prove. Wilson needs to prove he can hold onto the football; Brown needs to prove he can stay healthy; Jacobs needs to prove he still has some gas left in the tank; and Hillis needs to prove that these first two games weren’t a fluke.
Even when everyone is healthy, the strength of the Giants’ offense is the passing game. But when the running game is clicking, that would open up so much more in the passing game for Eli Manning and his receivers.
Despite all the positive energy from some of the new faces, let’s look back to the introduction: the Giants are ranked 29th in the league in rushing yards per game.
A lot of that is due to the fact that Big Blue was always playing from behind early in the season and thus had to throw the ball often to move downfield. But even so, the running game has had its issues.
As bad a weakness though as the running game was early on, that’s how much of a strength it can be in the second half. Let’s see if Ingram’s schemes can utilize all these potential weapons.
Up next: Defense