The release of Ahmad Bradshaw in the offseason has left one very noticeable void in the New York Giants offensive schemes — the presence of a competent third-down back. It’s taken almost eight weeks and four different starters at running back, but they may just have found the answer to their quandary.
One game a season does not make and certainly one game with the Minnesota Vikings as opposition does not leave anything set in stone. Peyton Hillis‘ debut performance has certainly sparked fresh optimism in the Giants camp as he flaunted traits that the Giants have been noticeably lacking in 2013.
Eli Manning has been hounded for his league-leading interceptions thus far, yet there is a case to make for his protection and the subsequent route running of his receivers in contribution to these errors. It’s no secret that David Wilson, who began the season as the Giants’ top back, continues to struggle in pass protection. Other suspects like Da’Rel Scott and Brandon Jacobs have also been guilty of misreading short passing plays that have led to interceptions or untimely three-and-outs.
Hillis’ performance on Monday Night Football in Week 7 was everything the aforementioned was not. The debutante regularly found open space in and around the line of scrimmage as an insurance option for Manning to go to after checking on his initial down-field options. It was simple yet effective play and integral to the Giants’ first victory of the season.
What was perhaps equally as impressive as it was beneficial was the yardage Hillis gained after the initial catch using his size and perseverance to break tackles en route to some valuable first downs. During the third-quarter, the former Madden 12 poster boy moved the chains in third-and-long situations after taking a shovel pass from his quarterback. This is especially worthy of note for a Giants team that currently ranks 29th in the league in third-down-conversion rate.
As compliment to his first rushing touchdown since Week 13 of last season, Hillis joined Victor Cruz in leading the Giants in receptions with five for the evening. Hillis also gained more yards receiving (45) than he did rushing (36) in an impressive all-purpose outing for his new side.
All things considered this was only one outing for Hillis, so let’s not get carried away. Nevertheless it is a start for both player and team. The Giants are on the board thanks, in large, to their new running back, and it’ll be a case of more-of-the-same in Week 8 against a Philadelphia Eagles side whose defensive frailties have been well documented this season. They currently rank 32nd in the NFL in yards-per-game allowed.
Hillis’ first outing in blue and grey presents a healthy selection dilemma for the weeks to come. Jacobs remains the proprietor of the team’s most successful ground performance of the season, Andre Brown is due back from injury in the coming weeks, and you get the sense that the team has invested too much in Wilson to go back now. All of them have their separate cases for involvement, but as things stand it is advantage Hillis. And by unwritten sporting law — you never mess with a winning side.