The New York Giants finished dead-last in the NFL in rushing last season, averaging 89.2 yards per game and 3.5 yards per carry. To be blunt, the Giants were downright awful running the football, but they have something to be optimistic about—they can’t get any worse.
The player who will make the biggest impact on the ground this season is starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw missed four games and struggled through numerous others with a collection of injuries that hindered his performance throughout 2011.
He finished with just 659 yards rushing on 171 carries (3.9 yards per carry), but did tally a career-high nine rushing touchdowns.
Bradshaw assures that after years with nagging foot and ankle injuries, he is healthier than ever before.
“I feel great,” he told Giants.com’s Michael Eisen. “Honestly, I’ve always said I’ve felt better, but this year I feel great – more than any year I’ve played in the NFL.”
A healthy Bradshaw should mean play much more reminiscent to his 2010 performance, which resulted in a career-high 1,235 rushing yards with eight touchdowns as well as 314 yards receiving. Bradshaw is a hard-nosed runner capable of being one of the NFL’s best when healthy, unfortunately that has been a rare occurrence in his tenure with the Giants.
If he really is feeling the best that he ever has, that could be a terrifying reality for the Giants’ opponents in 2012.
Of course, an improved Giants running game will not rest entirely on Bradshaw’s shoulders.
The offensive line was dismal in 2011 as well. They underperformed dramatically and were banged up themselves with many different players and numerous spots along the line. With much more youth infused into the rotation and the Giants’ starters healthy with an entire preseason to prepare, the Giants running game should be much improved from the disappointment it was last season.
Behind Bradshaw will be D.J. Ware and first-round pick David Wilson to spell the ball-carrier and pick up some of the slack for a change of pace. The competition for who that No. 2 man will be has only just begun, but it is fair to assume both men will see their fair share throughout the regular season.
A dominant, punishing running game combined with the Giants’ electrifying passing game would easily give the defending Super Bowl champions one of the most unstoppable offensive units in the NFL. With the Giants offense firing on all cylinders and the current state of defenses in the NFL, there would be little opponents could do to keep Big Blue off the scoreboard.
But ultimately, it rests on Bradshaw’s shoulders and whether or not he can perform at his highest level. Being healthy is a start in the right direction.
Louis Musto is a New York Giants Featured Columnist for RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @LouisMusto.