Ahmad Bradshaw is penciled in as the Giants starting RB for 2012.
The New York Giants are the only team in NFL history to finish the regular season last in the league in rushing and still win the Super Bowl. For Big Blue to increase their chances of a repeat in 2012, it would be prudent to improve their rushing attack. Although poor run blocking by the offensive line was a major contributing factor to the Giants lack of production on the ground, the often inconsistent play from the running back position was also an important aspect of why the running game failed to become a factor in several games last season. Ahmad Bradshaw’s inconsistent health, along with Brandon Jacobs failing to utilize his 6’4/ 264lb frame caused Big Blue to average a mere 89.5 rushing yards per game last year.
With Jacobs’ departure via free agency, the team will have to rely on several unproven players to backup Bradshaw. Below, we will look at who the team will depend upon for increased production throughout the 2012 season.
Ahmad Bradshaw- At least for the beginning of this season, Ahmad Bradshaw will be relied upon as a true number one running back. Until the team has a better idea of how good the players behind him on the depth chart are, Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride will have no choice but to increase Bradshaw’s workload. In all his previous years, Bradshaw had Brandon Jacobs to take a relatively significant amount of pressure off the 5’10/ 214lb player out of Marshall, particularly in pass blocking and short yardage situations. However, Brandon Jacobs is gone and there is no proven player that can be immediately depended upon to take hold of the number two running pack position. Furthermore, Bradshaw’s increased responsibilities could not come at a worse time for him. Last season, he only played in 12 games and had his worst statistical year ever. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry, as opposed to 4.5 ypc in 2010. This season, with a more experienced offensive line, we should see an increase in those numbers; however, the real question is whether Bradshaw can stay healthy. Since 2009, he has had lingering right foot and ankle issues which have limited his effectiveness. This offseason, Bradshaw had a small procedure done to help his foot injury from last year heal faster; which means he still hasn’t fully recovered from his injuries from 2011. In short, although Ahmad Bradshaw is a great player, he can not be fully relied upon to stay healthy for an entire season, especially at a position that takes a physical beating each game. It is more than likely that for the Giants to have an effective rushing attack this season, at least one of the younger running backs will have to step up and produce in a big way.
David Wilson- The 5’10/ 205lb rookie first round pick out of Virginia Tech has impressed his coaches with his speed, quickness, and stamina in OTA’s; however, there is a big difference between looking good with no pads on and producing in NFL games. That being said, Wilson does have elite speed (4.4 second forty-yard dash) and has also proven to be a versatile player. At Virginia Tech, Wilson gained 2662 yards rushing and also returned kicks for 1324 yards (2 touchdowns) over three seasons. He was named ACC player of the year last year. While Wilson’s physical traits and college statistics suggest he should be a good NFL player for years to come, the question is whether he can adjust to the speed of an NFL game in time to be productive this season. Obviously, there is a significant learning curve when one jumps from college to the NFL. Unless Wilson has an unbelievable preseason, look for Tom Coughlin to ease him into the running back rotation, slowly increasing his workload each week.
D.J. Ware- The 6th year player out of Georgia Tech has never been better than a number three option out of the backfield. While Ware can be relatively effective when used sparingly, he will have much more value for the team as a pass blocker. The Giants often used Ware in passing situations last year because of his pass blocking capabilities. Furthermore, he did have some nice runs on draw plays out of the shotgun. If Ahmad Bradshaw were to get injured, the Giants would have to rely upon D.J. Ware, David Wilson and Da’rel Scott to pass protect for Eli Manning. Both Wilson and Scott are inexperienced in that aspect of the game. So although D.J. Ware is not a great threat out of the backfield, he would become extremely valuable to the Giants’ pass heavy offense if Ahmad Bradshaw were to get injured.
Da’Rel Scott- Although Da’Rel Scott showed promise during the preseason last year, he did relatively little during regular season play. The 2nd year player out of Maryland does have great speed, so look for him to contribute on kick returns. However, at 5’11/ 210lb, he is the same prototypical type of running back as Ahmad Bradshaw and David Wilson, so his skill-set does not really bring anything unique to the table. He may very well be capable of becoming a productive NFL player, but with Bradshaw, Wilson, and maybe even D.J. Ware ahead of him on the depth chart, Scott is going to struggle to get carries. That being said, if injuries allow Scott to see increased carries, he could be this years Victor Cruz. He possesses break away speed and with a year of experience under his belt, do not be surprised if he becomes a contributor at some point this season.
Although the Giants have a very pass heavy offense, they played their best football towards the end of last season when the rushing game started to produce more significantly. With Brandon Jacobs in San Francisco and Ahmad Bradshaw’s chronic foot issues, it is more than likely that one of the unproven running backs will have to be effective. David Wilson is the most likely candidate; however, he is still a rookie. The positional battle at backup running back will be interesting to watch for the duration of training camp.
This was written by Den Benton
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