Derrick Ward set the bar extremely high. Last season he carried the ball 182 times for 1,025 yards, which translates to a hefty 5.6 yard per carry average. Even though he wasn't the starter, he basically split the carries evenly with Brandon Jacobs.
Last season the Giants had to choose between one or the other as they were both free agents. Eventually the Giants decided replacing a 270lb monster of a running back was much harder to do than replacing a 29 year old 225lb runner.
First up to replace 1,000 yard rusher will be Ahmad Bradshaw, entering his 3rd season in the league. After an impressive end to his rookie season, in which he led the team in playoff rushing, Bradshaw relinquished many of those carries last season to the very productive Ward.
Instead, Bradshaw did his best Mariano Rivera impersonation and closed out games for the Giants in the 4th quarter. By the time Ward and Jacobs were done pounding the life out of the opposing defenses, Bradshaw came in with his incredible speed and could not be caught.
Without Ward on the roster, Bradshaw has more experience than the other potential replacements and so he will be given the first shot.
Don't count out Danny Ware just yet however. Ware was a fairly productive runner in his time with the Georgia Bulldogs though he ultimately went undrafted before signing with the New York Jets. He made their practice squad and was eventually plucked by the Giants who needed another back. Ironically, the Giants also snagged Derrick Ward off the very same practice squad just a couple seasons before.
Ware has not had much experience in real game situations, but has shown a ton of skill and potential in practice and in the pre-season. He provides the same type of size and speed combination that Ward has and his running style best mirrors the departed star. Despite his lack of playing time, he may end up being the best fit to fill Ward's role.
Ware has spent the off season working hard and learning the playbook. He sees this as his chance to show the football watching world what he can do. You never want to bet against a man this determined.
The dark horse in this race is Andre Brown, the rookie from NC State. Though having a quietly productive college career, Brown dropped into the 4th round and was scooped up by the Giants in quick fashion. He has plenty of skill and potential but has a couple of fairly large obstacles standing in his way. Brown will most likely spend this season learning the life of an NFL player and watching the other guys carry the load.
Ultimately the loss of a player like Ward usually would mean some problems for his former team, after all it's hard to replace 1.000 yards rushing, but with a stable of quality runners like the Giants have at their disposal the impact off that loss should be minimal at worst. These runners are young, hungry, and full of talent. They should not be over looked.
Also, don't forget, the biggest baddest runner in the NFL will still be around taking his share of the carries as well. His presence alone makes everybody else just that much better.
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