Week 1 of the shiny new NFL season has finally arrived and yet former New York Giants halfback Orleans Darkwa somehow finds himself without a team.
The running-back twinkles as one of the standout names on an intriguing list of free agents on the search for a new home. Darkwa’s contributions from out the backfield marked one of few grains of encouragement across an otherwise wretched 3-13 season for the 2017 New York Giants.
His eye for cracks and power to exploit them in an often-collapsing pocket amounted to an improved running game in East Rutherford. Granted, the G-Men couldn’t have possibly slipped below their 29th rank in rushing yards in the 2016 season.
The Tulane product racked up 751 yards and five touchdowns behind an offensive line dismembered by the majority of opposition defenses. It was for his bright performances behind the lack of adequate blocking that saw Darkwa deemed a player worth retaining beyond the summer.
That perhaps would have been the case had the explosiveness of draft pick Saquon Barkley not been up for grabs. Darkwa can likely now be categorized as one to rue the New York Giants’ decision to overlook a new quarterback in favor of Barkley.
New York Giants
Big Blue had headed into the draft having already addressed their rushing attack with the free agency acquisition of former Carolina Panthers halfback Jonathan Stewart. Needless to say, Stewart’s roster spot has proven divisive among fans.
The veteran screamed of a goal-line back set to be tasked with putting his head in the dirt in short yardage scenarios. Stewart didn’t exactly convince of his worth in this department during preseason, notably fumbling on a first and goal in the Giants preseason win over the New York Jets.
Though they come with little substance, hopes among supporters throughout the summer of Darkwa returning epitomize the impression he made last season. One of Darkwa’s standout moments can now be looked back on as his latest audition for potential suitors to study.
The 26-year-old ran for 154 yards off 20 carries in the season finale win over the Washington Redskins.
This featured a 75-yard touchdown run orchestrated by his patience to follow John Jerry’s shift inside and precision-timing to breach the tight avenue created by his left guard. Having made the most of his split-second opportunity, Darkwa went on to break two arm tackles before cruising to the end zone.
Out of the backfield
A minor concern to Darkwa’s game is his ability as a duel threat, with both Barkley and Wayne Gallman expected to be utilized as pass catchers on occasion in Pat Shurmur’s setup.
Darkwa’s value was hindered by dropped catches off short throws, although it’s worth noting some wayward passing from Eli Manning and the lack of time the Giants’ offensive line was affording their quarterback.
Health concerns could be another factor in Darkwa still being unsigned, with the former Miami Dolphin having undergone surgery in May to remove a plate that was inserted in his leg after a fracture in the 2016 season.
The New England Patriots were seemingly the first to host Darkwa for a visit as they considered running-back alternatives following Dion Lewis’ move to the Tennessee Titans.
He has since also reportedly worked out for the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins. The latter had looked leading contenders for their former NFC East opponent in light of rookie running back Derrius Guice’s torn ACL, but instead turned to 33-year-old Adrian Peterson.
Following Jerick McKinnon’s own season-ending ACL injury, the San Francisco 49ers have emerged as the latest possible landing spot for Darkwa. A fascinating storyline may also begin to surface in Pittsburgh as Le’Veon Bell continues his holdout over a contract extension that looks no closer to materializing. Whoever snaps up Darkwa should know they are making a solid addition.