Concerns and worries have only mounted as the New York Giants offense suffered through a preseason littered with struggles and rapidly escalating frustration.
Although the failures have been attributed to New York’s first team offense as a whole, in reality, the rushing attack looks to be in good shape. For the most part, it was the passing game that was anemic and cringe-inducing.
According to head coach Tom Coughlin, the Giants made it a goal to focus on improving their running game this preseason after last year’s struggles on the ground. Here is a quote from Coughlin, as reported by ESPN New York’s Dan Graziano:
“Did we have a game where we just sat back and threw it? Not really,” Coughlin said in a conference call Friday. “And that was because last year, we were so poor in the run game that it ruined our balance and we turned the ball over a ridiculous amount. So we didn’t want to get away from our run game.”
New York’s focus on the running game really started back in free agency when the team signed Rashad Jennings as their projected starter. This will be Jennings’ first time heading into an NFL season as a team’s starting running back.
This preseason, Jennings carried the ball a total of 35 times for 212 yards and one touchdown. The lone score came on a 73-yard scamper Jennings ripped off against the Steelers.
Jennings has a good burst and solid speed. He can run between the tackles and also quickly grab the edge. Jennings is also a good receiver, possibly New York’s best receiving back since Tiki Barber.
Behind Jennings, the Giants will likely use rookie Andre Williams out of Boston College, this year’s fourth-round draft pick. Williams led the NCAA in rushing last year and, this preseason, he showed that he could be a major steal for New York.
At about 5-foot-11, Williams isn’t a huge back, but don’t let his lack of height fool you. Williams is a powerful runner who makes quick cuts and will just as likely lower his shoulder and try to run through a brick wall as he will try and side-step around it.
In the preseason, Williams bowled his way forward for 195 rushing yards on 38 carries. He also put up two touchdowns.
The Giants will surely work Williams into the rotation to lighten the load for Jennings. They may also use Williams as a short-yardage back at times with his speed and ability to generate a serious push.
Peyton Hillis is another downhill runner and he rounds out the team’s trio of running backs. Hillis is a solid back who certainly won’t blow your socks off but will provide good pass blocking and a legitimate receiving option out of the backfield.
Overall, the backfield looks to be in good shape, which is hard to imagine considering New York lost 2012 first-round pick David Wilson to early retirement after he suffered a setback to a serious neck injury.
Like the passing attack, much of the running game’s success will be determined by the play of New York’s offensive line. The o-line must hold up and provide decent enough blocking to allow these backs to operate, or once again, the Giants’ offense will sputter along.
This is a passing league, so Eli Manning and the aerial team will eventually need to figure it out. However, at this point, the running game will need to be consistently effective, considering the lack of success we’ve seen through the air this preseason.