One of the biggest frustrations for Giants’ fans in 2015 was the “running back by committee” approach. Then December came around and Rashad Jennings showed us exactly what we had wanted to see all season. During those final four games, he rushed for 432 yards on 79 carries according to Michael Eisen of Giants.com. While we all hope that Jennings builds on the end of last season, his value goes well beyond the rushing stats.
On September 11, 2016, the New York Giants finally beat the Dallas Cowboys for the first time on opening day. A significant component was the run game. ESPN.com reports Rashad Jennings, who gained 75 yards on 18 attempts (4.2 yard average,) led the Giants’ ground attack.
Significantly, the most valuable runs came at the end of the game.
Last season, the Giants lost 6 games in which they led in the final two minutes. Most of the blame rests squarely on the defense. However, the inability for the Giants to maintain possession by converting on third downs was also a factor. Doing so would have allowed them to control the clock and therefore have a better shot at finishing those games.
After Eli Manning Connected with Victor Cruz for the go ahead touchdown, the Giants’s defense held the Cowboys and got the ball back with about five minutes on the clock. During that drive, Jennings had 7 runs for 40 yards; allowing the clock to be ran down to 1:12. As we all know, that was not enough time for the Cowboys to mount an effective final drive.
As Dan Schneier of NYG 24/7 sports reports, Jennings production is due in large part to one key statistic: yards after contact. Only four other players gained more yards after contact than Jennings last season; if Sunday was any indication, that trend will continue throughout the 2016 season.
Jennings buys-in to team concepts and fundamentals
While his rushing statistics have been impressive, his focus on teamwork and buy-in to Coach McAdoo’s key fundamentals may have been the real difference between a win and loss this past week.
Starting with OTA’s this past spring, Dan Salamone of Giants.com reported Coach McAdoo introducing three key concepts named: LT, Snee and The Duke. LT concentrated on tackling, Snee on blocking and The Duke on ball protection.
Eli Manning received one of the lowest grades per ProFootbalFocus despite slinging for 3 touchdowns and 207 yards. The interception on a pass intended for rookie Sterling Shepard and an ill conceived backward pass account for the poor grade.
Jennings holds onto The Duke
On the backward pass and each time Manning was pressured, you could see a look of fear and determination on Jennings face. Fear for The Duke being lost and determination to do anything to prevent that outcome. I counted three separate times that he dove for an unsecured ball. On one of these, he made a play of it and extended the drive.
Did You Know?
When not carrying The Duke, Jennings makes himself useful as a capable pass blocker. In fact, Pro Football Focus ranks Jennings in the top 10 pass blocking RBs in the league. Considering the preseason concerns of the offensive line, he becomes an even more valuable asset to the team.
Drive to Number Five
With the running back by committee officially gone, Jennings has the opportunity to create a lasting legacy for Giants’s faithful. Though his early career was wrought with injuries, he’s been a workhorse for the past year. If the Giants are to make a real run at Coach McAdoo’s stated goal of a fifth Lombardi Trophy, Jennings might well be kingpin. His talents in all aspects of the game give the Giants a significant edge that is often overlooked.