NFL Draft 2012: 10 Reasons the New York Giants Should Have RBs in Mind
The Giants finished last in the league in rushing in 2011 and suffered from this major shortcoming throughout the entire regular season.
In the playoffs, the offense proved that they do indeed have the ability to run the ball, as they ended the postseason on top of the totem pole in rushing yards.
That indicates that the Giants might already have the pieces to improve the running game, but there are numerous variables that need to be acknowledged.
Here are 10 reasons why GM Jerry Reese and Big Blue should be thinking running back in the 2012 NFL draft.
Ahmad Bradshaw’s Health
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Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 659 yards and nine touchdowns last season while posting an average of 3.9 yards per carry.
He missed four games due to a broken foot in 2011 which should be a cause for concern for the Giants front office.
Coach Tom Coughlin recently said that Bradshaw would not need surgery this offseason, but a running back with a bad foot is never good news.
When he's healthy, he's a huge part of the Giants' offensive success. When he's injured, it shows.
If Brandon Jacobs doesn't come back next season and Bradshaw gets hurt, the Giants would have to rely on either D.J. Ware or Da'Rel Scott if they don't draft a running back (scary thought).
Brandon Jacobs Might Not Return
Recent reports have indicated that the Giants will ask Brandon Jacobs to take a pretty substantial pay cut.
Jacobs said that he wants to stay in New York, but also said this in an interview with NBC-4's Bruce Beck:
“But I’m not willing to sell my soul, you know? It’s a great organization and I want to be a part of it, but if they’re not feeling the same way, then so be it.”
That doesn't sound promising.
The Giants can't afford to not cut Jacobs salary and the running back doesn't want to "sell his soul" to the team by taking a pay cut.
The bruising running back played in 14 games last season and rushed for 571 yards and seven touchdowns. That's decent, but it's not worth the $4.9 million that he wants to get receive.
He obviously isn't on the same page, nor the same book, as Giants' brass so there is at least a possibility he won't be around next season.
If the Giants lose Jacobs, they'll relinquish the power/finesse combination that he and Ahmad Bradshaw bring to the offense unless they can draft a big running back.
To Draw in Defensive Backs to Open Up the Big Play
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The New York Giants offense is so dangerous when it comes to the big play, that if the safeties are drawn in just a few yards, Hakeem Nicks or Victor Cruz could easily go for six.
While the Giants having no running game to speak of in the 2011 regular season, they still managed to tie the Green Bay Packers for the league lead in yards per reception.
Both Nicks and Cruz have the speed and talent to beat coverage over the top without the help of a running game. Just imagine what they could accomplish next year if opposing defensive backs have to cheat-up just a bit.
Optimize Play-Action Plays
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Eli Manning excels when the play-action pass is working for him.
One of his best plays is the play-action bootleg to the right side of the field. If teams don't have to worry about the running game, play-action passes are much less effective.
Say Brandon Jacobs bolts then Ahmad Bradshaw gets hurt. The Giants would then be relying on D.J. Ware or Da'Rel Scott as decoys for the passing game. It's hard to see that situation scaring opposing defenses.
A potent play-action offense would further open up big plays for the wide receivers, as well as give Eli more time to find them.
Drafting a formidable running back would provide the Giants with some extra depth while also making it easier to fill the hole left by an injured (or departing) running back.
Help in Pass Protection
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Ahmad Bradshaw is good in pass protection. Brandon Jacobs isn't.
Bradshaw hasn't been the picture of health over his career and Jacobs could be gone by the time the Giants play their first game.
Fullback Henry Hynoski isn't all that adept at pass-blocking either.
The offensive line is only adequate when it comes to pass-blocking.
Eli Manning was sacked 28 times last season, the second highest amount in his career.
If the Giants can get another back to switch in on occasional passing plays to give Bradshaw a break, it could keep him on the field for all 16 games.
If Jacobs should leave, the Giants need to pick up a running back in the draft who can help shoulder the load with Bradshaw both in the passing game and the running game.
To Keep Opposing Offenses off the Field
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Last season, the New York Giants offense spent less time on the field than their opponents offenses.
In 2011, the team had the ball for an average of 29:58 out of 60 minutes. That's a minuscule differential, but the Giants can dominate opponents out of the gate if they have the ball for just a little more time.
In Week 11, Week 13 and Week 15, the Giants lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins, respectively. In those three games, the Giants lost the time of possession battle by a combined 29 minutes and 42 seconds (104:21 to 75:39).
The defense allowed 255 passing yards per game last season, 29th in the league. You can say what you want about how well the defense played down the stretch but there were times when they were absolutely shredded by opposing quarterbacks.
Minimizing the opposing offenses time on the field obviously gives them less scoring opportunities.
The Giants defense should improve in 2012 with Prince Amukamara playing a full season and Jonathan Goff returning. But they still need to win the time of possession battle to gain an advantage.
Drafting a running back who can move the chains up the middle and keep the clock running and the offense on the field could serve as a good strategy for replacing Brandon Jacobs.
So the Team Doesn’t Finish Last in Rushing
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The Giants were able to slip into the playoffs last season despite having the worst rushing offense in the league.
It's not the case that the team gave up on the running game completely. They racked up 411 rushing attempts (21st in the league), but only averaged 3.5 yards a carry.
The utter ineptitude in the rushing game didn't keep the team out of the playoffs, but it certainly must have been embarrassing for them.
It's also another aspect that Tom Coughlin needs to worry about throughout the practice week.
If Brandon Jacobs does stay with the team and the Giants draft a running back, they could have corps that is three-deep, much like the New Orleans Saints have with Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram.
By the way, New Orleans finished sixth in the league in rushing without any of those three backs getting more than 122 touches.
Good Crop of Running Backs in the Draft
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Alabama's Trent Richardson is a cut above the rest of the running backs in the 2012 NFL draft, but there are at least four other guys the New York Giants could pick up.
Guys like Lamar Miller (Miami), Chris Polk (Washington), David Wilson (Virginia Tech), LaMichael James (Oregon) and Doug Martin (Boise State) would all be viable options for Jerry Reese to choose.
Miller will be gone by the time the Giants pick in the first round, which leaves Wilson as the best running back available.
Wilson posted the fourth-best time in the 60-yard shuttle and third-best in the 20-yard shuttle. He also improved his draft stock in the combine interviews.
He won the ACC Player of the Year last season, garnering 1709 yards while posting a 5.9 yards per carry average. He played all 14 games for the Hokies and carried the ball 240 times.
That's the type of durability that the Giants need in the backfield, especially if Ahmad Bradshaw's foot issue lingers.
D.J. Ware Hasn’t Performed When Needed
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The artist formerly known as Danny Ware has only carried the ball more than nine times in a game once in his career. That came in Week 9 of 2010 against the Seattle Seahawks when he rushed for 66 yards on 13 carries.
Other than the shotgun draw play on the occasional two-point conversion attempt, Ware has been all but useless for the Giants. He's been in the league since 2008 and has a grand total of 81 carries for 324 yards
In fact, the only time he performed decently in 2011 was in Giants' losses. During the team's four-game losing streak from Week 10 to Week 13, Ware caught 17 balls for 104 yards.
It is strange to see that Ware's better performances come when his team loses.
Ware is signed through next season. But with the way the NFL works, don't be surprised if he's shown the door.
Da’Rel Scott Hasn’t Panned out Yet
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Da'Rel Scott hasn't become the player that the Giants hoped he would be when he was drafted in 2011.
And he may never pan out.
He posted a blazing 40-time of 4.34 at the 2011 combine but has not been able to use his speed to help the team. Last season, Scott only had 16 yards on five carries.
Jerry Reese said this when asked about Scott following last year's draft:
"We took a flyer on the guy because he is big and fast," Reese said, alluding to his 4.34 speed in the 40-yard dash. "We hope this guy develops into a Willie Parker, one of those kinds of things."
The seventh-round pick hasn't been given much playing time to prove himself. But if he was impressing anyone in practice, Tom Coughlin would find him some chances.
If Jacobs departs and Bradshaw can't shoulder the load for an entire season, chances are the Giants running game would be ineffective with Scott getting all the carries