2013 was a rough season for the New York Giants, especially in the backfield. The offensive line did not do the running backs any favors, but the Giants were literally taking players off the street and putting them in the lineup, as they went as low as their sixth running back on the depth chart. Injuries derailed the running back group before the regular season even started, and they were never able to get back on track.
This season, the Giants do not intend on having the same problem rear its head again, as they got out quick in free agency, signing Rashad Jennings from the Oakland Raiders. They re-signed Peyton Hillis as well, and still have last season’s seventh-round pick Michael Cox in the fold as well. The 2014 NFL Draft played out in a positive way for the Giants, as Heisman Trophy finalist Andre Williams from Boston College fell in their laps in the fourth round.
Williams had an extremely productive career at BC, compiling 2,177 yards and 18 touchdowns on 355 carries his senior year. What makes those numbers even more impressive is the fact that he was facing eight, nine and even 10-man boxes constantly as Boston College had no other threats offensively.
Williams is a downhill, powerful runner who will do the dirty work and be able to produce between the tackles, much like Andre Brown and Brandon Jacobs did for Big Blue before him. If he is able to produce between the tackles, it will enable the Giants to use Jennings and David Wilson, once he is cleared from his neck surgery from last season, to operate in space where they are more comfortable.
The biggest obstacle that Williams faces in OTAs and in training camp is Hillis. Hillis is the only other ‘big back’ the Giants currently have on their roster, and the two will battle it out throughout the summer for early-down work. Where Hillis holds the edge is in the passing game, where Williams is virtually nonexistent.
Williams hauled in only 10 receptions for 60 yards in his four seasons with the Eagles. It is the weakest part of his game coming into the NFL. He is limited in the passing game as his route running needs work, and he does not have the same awareness technique in pass protection as he does running the ball. In Tom Coughlin’s tenure as head coach, if a running back cannot prove that he can protect Eli Manning adequately in pass protection, he will not see the field.
Luckily, Williams is a high-character individual with accountability. He will come in and work on his weaknesses to help this team. He does fill a need on the roster, as the Giants did not have a promising short-yardage back on the roster prior to the draft. Hillis has the experience and edge in the passing game, but is an underwhelming option as Williams has the higher ceiling.
If he shows improvements in the passing game, Hillis’ roster spot could be in danger once the season starts getting close.
If Williams is able to carve out a role early on in the season, it would not be surprising if he leads this team in rushing touchdowns as rookie. The Giants got a steal in Williams in the fourth round, as not many players with the production of Williams lasts that long in drafts. It will be a pleasure to see the Giants get back to the strong ground game to compliment Manning’s aerial attack.