With training camp set to start a week from tomorrow, the Giants will soon be getting the chance to defend a Super Bowl title for the second time in five seasons. With a number of key veterans returning from injury and some exciting rookies, the Giants have to feel good about their squad for the upcoming season.
One of those rookies is first-round pick David Wilson, a running back out of Virginia Tech. Wilson was drafted in the hopes that he could help revive a running game that ranked dead last in the NFL, averaging just 89.2 yards per game.
While it would be nice to allow Wilson to adjust to the NFL at his own pace and hope that he could become the number one running back someday, the Giants don't have time for that.
Here are some reasons why expectations are going to be high for Wilson coming into this season.
I love Ahmad Bradshaw. He's a hard-nose runner who, despite his size, isn't afraid to lower his shoulder and try to run defenders down. He's the perfect running back for the Giants' system.
The only problem is the wear and tear on his body has to be taking a toll at some point. While he's never suffered a serious or career threatening injury, he has certainly been on the receiving end of quite a few significant ones.
According to this player report on CBSSports.com, one of the treatments Bradshaw underwent to try and repair his feet used stem cells. His feet are to the point where they are using stem cells to try to properly heal them. I don't think it's anything that's going to render him useless, but it isn't nothing.
Why do you think the Giants kept Brandon Jacobs around for so long? Because they needed someone they thought they could trust (strong emphasis on they) running the ball while Bradshaw recovered from his injuries on a week to week basis.
With Jacobs now playing in San Francisco, that role will be Wilson's. The Giants cannot afford to have a running back who isn't developing fast enough take any significant number of carries.
I will readily admit that there probably wasn't a Giant fan that didn't like Eli Manning as much as I didn't like him before last season. When he came out and said he was an elite quarterback, I think I had some combination of a laugh and a heart attack.
But he proved me wrong last season. He carried the team practically by himself all the way to the Super Bowl and then beat the Patriots...again.
While you won't hear me bad mouthing Eli anymore, you can't expect him to win you every single game all by himself. Like I just said, he made me a believer last season but if you take a step back you'll notice that this Giants team went 9-7 with losses to the Redskins twice and the Seahawks and Eagles B Squad at home.
I don't mean that as a slight toward Eli at all, but you can see what difference a running game makes.
In the past 10 years, the teams that have finished last in rushing yards have a combined record of 63-97. That's an average of going 6-10 for seven seasons and then 7-9 for three seasons. That's not good.
While this does not fall squarely on Wilson's shoulders, the Giants are going to need him to produce immediately if they want to climb out of the cellar.
As we saw last year, Eli Manning does not need an elite running game to win, but it certainly wouldn't hurt.
I know that this is just one play and to be honest he probably did more bad things than good in this run (i.e. running backwards, completely reversing his field), but that kind of talent and athleticism is going to need to be on display from day one.
While he only had one season as the feature back, he was still able to contribute behind guys like Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. In 2010, while not the number one back, he still ran the ball 113 times for 619 yards and five touchdowns. In 2011, his first and only year as the number one, he ran the ball 290 times for 1709 yards and nine touchdowns.
That's 1709 yards. I know that it was in college and more specifically in the ACC, but that doesn't change the fact that the guy knows how to run the football and that is exactly what the Giants need.
When the Giants selected Wilson with the 32nd overall pick in the draft, there were still some pretty big names on the board at key positions for the Giants.
Guys like Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, Jonathan Martin and Cordy Glenn were still up for grabs and could have been huge additions. And it's not like the Giants weren't looking for players at their positions because they picked a tight end and two tackles later in the draft.
Not to mention, while they aren't problem areas for the Giants, guys like Courtney Upshaw, Zach Brown, Alshon Jeffrey, Peter Konz and Andre Branch were all on the board as well. I know that none of those guys would have satisfied a need like Wilson did, but they are all players who are expected to be huge contributors for their respective teams this season.
I don't plan on forever comparing Wilson and his production to that of the guys the Giants could have had instead (unless one of them goes to the Hall of Fame or something), but what I will note, at least for this season, is the impact that these guys have on their teams.
I do think Wilson is a great back and I'm happy the Giants got him, but I feel like there were more pressing that the Giants had the opportunity to address at 32 that they let go.
Wilson is stepping into a locker room that is five months removed from their second Super Bowl title in five seasons. This team is not rebuilding. They are not waiting for a couple of key pieces to mature and then they're going to make a run.
This team is one of the best in the league right now. Now I know that not every draft pick that the Giants have ever had has made a huge impact in terms of helping the team win a Super Bowl, but this is not a situation where they will deal with mediocrity well.
If Wilson can't produce the way the Giants need him to, they will give someone else a shot because they aren't wasting time waiting for him be ready. Kevin Gilbride probably wants him not to produce so he can run shotgun draws to DJ Ware all game (that might not be totally true).
Wilson is the first pick that the defending champs made. He does not have the luxury of taking his time to get ready to produce.
Other Giant fans tell me all the time that I have an unreasonable bias against DJ Ware, and I just want to take a second to say that isn't true. I have absolutely no problem with DJ Ware. Some guys just aren't that good. It's not his fault; it's just the way things are.
My problem is with the way he is used. He isn't completely inept and is a good guy to have in the game every now and then if your one and two backs need a break. He is not a guy who you should hand the ball to more than five times in any game.
To give you some perspective, there were three games last season that Ware got more than one carry and rushed for five yards or less, including one where he gained three yards on four carries. You can chalk those up to whatever you want but the numbers don't lie.
Last season, he rushed the ball 46 times and gained 163 yards with zero touchdowns. I don't mean to be overly critical, but that is not going to cut it.
If Wilson can't produce at least a little bit, Ware is going to be the guy, and that is not good news for the Giants. That is, unless the Giants see something in Andre Brown or Da'Rel Scott.