It was assumed that the poor offensive line play was the reason the New York Giants struggled to run the football in 2014. The Giants running backs had pedestrian stat lines and the ground attack seldom got going last season. The team averaged just 3.6 yards per carry and only had four runs over 20 yards in the entire season. What was the real reason for the Giants struggles and what can we expect from the rushing game in the 2015 season?
The truth is that the Giants don’t have a proven rusher on their roster. The most yards Rashad Jennings has ever rushed for in a season was 733. In the past three seasons he has had over 100 rushing attempts but his numbers weren’t anything to write home about.
Andre Williams was a rookie in 2014 and he was asked to do more than he was originally expected to because of the injury woes of Jennings. In 217 attempts he rushed for 721 yards. It was a poor average of 3.3 yards, a number inflated by two games in which he had over 100 yards. He only got over 60 yards four times in the 2014 season.
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The Giants brought in Shane Vereen in free agency. Vereen has never been a number one back, but rather has excelled as a role player in a running back grouping. In 2014, Vereen rushed for 391 yards which was his career’s highest total. Vereen’s specialty is being a receiving threat out of the backfield, but he has never proven to be a dominant rusher.
You can point fingers at the bad offensive line play all you want, but the Giants really don’t have one star running back on their roster. They have a trio of complementary pieces but nobody that you can lean on for 25 carries a game. While the offensive line is crucial to having success on the ground, you still need to have big play rushers.
Nov 2, 2013; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes running back Duke Johnson (8) runs the ball while lead by offensive lineman Ereck Flowers (74) past Florida State Seminoles linebacker Telvin Smith (22) during the first half at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
Ereck Flowers starting at right tackle should improve the running game dramatically. He is a bulldozer and he can get to the second level of the defense and make the blocks that spring big runs down the field. The return of Geoff Schwartz will also help the Giants on the ground. Assuming Pugh plays at guard, you’re putting him in his most comfortable position.
The offensive line will be improved and that will help. The problem is the Giants have three backs who will get what you block for them. This is the bare requirement for an NFL rusher. The Giants don’t have a rusher that can make something out of nothing. They don’t have a rusher that can make what could be a four yard run and turn it into a 24 yard run.
Ben McAdoo’s offense doesn’t really require a dominant running game. It would be nice to give some balance to the offense but the quick passing attack can provide the same comforts of the running game. The Giants just need enough production from their running backs to not be completely predictable and to win in short yardage situations.
The Giants need to average over four yards per carry. It needs to be a consistent element to the offense, even if it isn’t the main attraction. I think the Giants can manage that.
Vereen and Jennings will make plays as a receiver out of the backfield, often times being the safety valve underneath for Eli Manning. The running game will be improved but it still doesn’t look like a strength of this Giants team. When you have names like Manning, Beckham Jr. and Cruz you’re going to want to be pass happy any way.