How Will New York Giants Solve Their Crowded Backfield?
The Giants spent much of the 2015 season with a revolving door in their backfield, as Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, Andre Williams and Orleans Darkwa all split carries. None of the four backs took well to this by-committee approach, each struggling to get into the flow of an offense that averaged 26.3 points per game; good for sixth in the league. The team wisely shifted strategies in December, and made Jennings the bell cow back, and he rushed for 432 yards over the final four games of the 2015 season.
With the season opener just over a month away, the question is whether the position will plague the team again? In an interview posted on Giants.com on August 1, 2016, running back coach Craig Johnson said the team hopes to “find the rhythm with a pair”. While it remains to be seen if Jennings’ late surge will carry over into 2016, he is still the lead dog based upon his performance late last year.
Vereen remains a terrific third-down back who caught 59 passes last season and actually had more receiving than rushing yards. He is also the most versatile of the team’s backs, with McAdoo often inserting him in shotgun sets, but also lined up on the outside as a receiver.
Williams, the team’s 2014 fourth-round pick, shows little to no burst when he gets on the field and is best suited to goal line duty, where can possibly plow through a defense for short yardage. Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning loves throwing to his backs, but Williams’ hands might as well be made of bricks for how many dropped screens I have witnessed the past two years. It appears that there may be one backfield roster spot up for grabs between Williams, Darkwa, and former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Bobby Rainey, with preseason performance likely a significant factor.
The Giants would be well-suited to find out what they have in fifth-rounder Paul Perkins, who the front office praised early in the off season. According to NJ.com in a story posted on May 1, 2016, Giants executive Marc Ross said Perkins possessed “great vision, one-cut quickness, and excellent hands”. With that being said, it is an open secret that the Giants have struggled mightily with lack of production from countless mid-round draft picks during general manager Jerry Reese’s tenure.
Reese has struck lightning in a bottle before at running back with Ahmad Bradshaw, and it would be prudent to give Perkins a fair amount of playing time in the preseason. The issue here is that by seeing if Perkins can contribute in the backfield, carries are taken away from Jennings, thereby re-creating a cycle that could compound on last season’s problems of dividing up playing time. At the end of the day, it will be interesting to see if the coaching staff actually commits to a two-back tandem in 2016.