The New York Giants‘ backfield was decimated by injuries in 2013. Andre Brown fractured his leg in the preseason and missed the first eight games. David Wilson then suffered a serious neck injury in Week 5, forcing him to miss the remainder of the year.
The Giants mixed and matched for weeks with veteran free agent signings like Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis until Brown finally returned. New York chose to part ways with Brown this offseason, most likely because of his checkered history with devastating injuries.
Instead, the Giants signed free agent Rashad Jennings to be their 2014 starter. Jennings spent the first three seasons of his career in Jacksonville before signing with the Raiders last season. He has been a second-stringer for the majority of his career but has still carried a serious workload due to injuries.
Darren McFadden went down last season, paving the way for Jennings’ most productive season since he entered the NFL. Jennings rushed for 733 yards and six touchdowns. The Giants also like Jennings’ ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He recorded 36 receptions for 292 yards a season ago.
Behind Jennings, who, if healthy, will see the majority of the action, New York has three backs who could also see time.
The Giants still love David Wilson’s skill-set despite his struggles last year. After he fumbled twice in the season opener, he quickly found himself in Tom Coughlin‘s doghouse. His crusade to earn back the trust of the coaching staff was cut short by his injury in Week 5.
The injury was so serious that, at one point, the Giants were worried it was career-threatening. Wilson underwent surgery to repair the herniated disc in his neck and has been limited in offseason workouts thus far. The plan was for him to be ready by training camp, which is creeping up towards the end of July.
If Wilson can truly recover he should become a big part of the offense. He has speed and quickness that sets him apart from any other running back on the team. In new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo‘s system, there are opportunities for backs to get the ball in open space. The Giants will likely ease Wilson back into the lineup but he could become an integral piece, like New York initially hoped.
Hillis and rookie Andre Williams could be competing for one roster spot.
Hillis came in last season and provided the Giants with some much-needed relief. He runs downhill with a purpose and can also pass block and catch passes out of the backfield.
The Giants drafted Williams this year in the fourth round out of Boston College. Williams was a Heisman finalist last season and also led the NCAA in rushing yards. He is a raw talent that can run defenders over and also make them miss. He could be looking at a short-yardage role this year, similar to Jacobs in his early years in New York.
New York seems to have more depth than last year but also more question marks. Can Rashad Jennings handle the load of an NFL starter for an entire season? Will David Wilson come back healthy and have a positive impact? Only time will tell for the Giants, but they seem to be in decent shape at this point.