The New York Giants were already concerned about their first-team offense entering their preseason finale Thursday night against the New England Patriots. And although that unit did generate a first-quarter touchdown, all positive vibes were trumped by yet another tough-to-swallow preseason injury.
Andre Brown, who is the best blocking halfback on the roster, suffered a fractured leg during the second quarter and will presumably be out long term, leaving quarterback Eli Manning with even less protection entering the regular season.
Let's keep in mind that Manning has already lost Ahmad Bradshaw (Colts) and Martellus Bennett (Bears). Last year, Bradshaw was the best blocking halfback in the league, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), who also graded Bennett as the third-best pass-blocking tight end in the NFL. They're replaced by second-year back David Wilson and veteran tight end Brandon Myers, both of whom had poor seasons in pass protection in 2012.
Whom should the Giants use on third downs now?
Throw in injuries to center David Baas, versatile veteran offensive lineman David Diehl, and top wide receiver Victor Cruz, and you have to be concerned for Manning and, by extension, the rest of that Big Blue offense.
There's only so much the Giants can do about the majority of those problems, but they might have to consider shaking things up behind Wilson in the backfield.
They could go with Henry Hynoski to take over for Brown's third-down and goal-line duties, but that takes away the rushing threat in those situations. The 24-year-old fullback, who is coming off a knee injury, is a solid blocker, but he has carried the ball just five times in 27 career games. Resorting to that would make the Giants even more one-dimensional than they already are.
Wilson may have improved his pass-protection skills this offseason, but it's not a good sign that they've been leaving him on the sideline on third downs throughout the preseason. Elsewhere on that depth chart, Da'Rel Scott is inexperienced and isn't a very good blocker, while seventh-round pick Michael Cox is a rookie.
Ryan Torain at least brings some experience to the table, but he really struggled with his blocking when he last carried a large load with Washington in 2010. That year, Torain personally surrendered three sacks and was ranked 132nd out of 137 backs in terms of blocking efficiency, per PFF.
|PFF blocking grade||Sacks||Snaps|
Pro Football Focus
Although Torain hasn't had any glaring pass-protection issues this preseason, the sample size is quite limited. He's probably the natural next man up, but the G-Men should consider giving a free-agent veteran a shot.
Michael Turner and Willis McGahee are both 31, but PFF graded Turner as the seventh-best blocking halfback in the NFL last season, and McGahee 15th. Both are, at the very least, above average in pass protection, and both had over 700 yards rushing in 2012.
Yes, there's a reason why both are still unemployed. Turner averaged only 3.6 yards per carry last season in Atlanta, while it's believed that McGahee's attitude regarding his reduced role was a factor in his release from Denver in July.
|Yards||YPC||PFF blocking grade|
|Michael Turner||800 (22nd)||3.6 (38th)||2.8 (7th)|
|Willis McGahee||731 (26th)||4.4 (15th)||1.9 (15th)|
Pro Football Focus
Now that the regular season is one week away, McGahee might think twice about insisting he be the No. 1 back. The Giants have the leverage, and they also have the kind of experienced coaching staff and veteran locker room that can help mitigate potentially negative situations. We've seen it before in New York, haven't we?
If I'm general manager Jerry Reese, I'm calling both of those backs Friday morning and at least testing those waters between now and the first legitimate Week 1 practice on Wednesday.
In terms of risk/reward, it only makes sense.