After Tiki Barber retired, many believed that his departure would coincide with the demise of the Giants' running game.
What they failed to realize was the Giants had a monster of a running back waiting in the wings, along with a scarcely used veteran who would become a productive all-purpose back, and an unheralded seventh-round pick who would be a focal point in an unforgettable Super Bowl run.
Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, and Ahmad Bradshaw’s success solidified the Giants' offensive line as one of the league’s best.
This notion was further accredited when Derrick Ward and Brandon Jacobs became the fourth tandem in NFL history to run for 1,000 yards each in the same season.
But in 2009, the running game that had defined the Giants for so many years dissipated.
Brandon Jacobs had a disturbingly bad season, mustering 835 rushing yards, but going from five yards a carry in 2008 to 3.7 in 2009. Jacobs insists his abysmal 2009 season should be attributed to his decision to forgo surgery in September. And maybe he's right—maybe he was too banged up to compile the type of season Giants fans had grown accustomed to.
But that shouldn’t deter the Giants from minimizing his role in the Giants offense.
Back in 2007, we saw him hurt his knee in his first career start. Then two months later, he pulled his hamstring. Luckily, it didn’t prevent him from playing a role in January and February. The numbers don’t reflect it, but his presence was crucial in opening up holes for Ahmad Bradshaw late in games.
2008 was an extremely productive season until December. Once again, he suffered a knee injury, which clearly inhibited his ability to run with as much as tenacity as he had when the Giants jumped out to an 11-1 start.
As time has passed, his injuries have affected him more severely. Injuries likely restricted his ability to be great last year, but what's to say he won’t get hurt again in 2010? Then what do the Giants do?
Ahmad Bradshaw is not a featured back. Fueled by a torrid start, he averaged nearly five yards a pop in 2009, an impressive number. But he was virtually irrelevant during the last two months.
Naturally, the two broken feet he sustained limited his ability to resemble anything close to the factor he was in September.
Many use the injury excuse for Bradshaw’s late season fade, a digression that was emblematic of the entire team. However, Bradshaw and Jacobs are similarly prone to these injuries. Bradshaw’s cutback ability is well known, but it also contributed to his foot issues.
He is the definition of an eight- to 10-touch running back. If the Giants want to maximize the performance of Jacobs and Bradshaw, they need to be more cognizant of how many touches they get a game.
But where would those touches go?
Eli Manning has the passing game poised to be one of the league’s best, but if the Giants choose to throw even more than they did in 2009, Giants fans will spend January being very bitter for the second straight year.
Is D.J. Ware finally ready to carry over his pre-season MVPs into the regular season?
What about Andre Brown, a promising fourth-round selection from a year ago who ruptured his Achilles tendon before he even suited up for a preseason game in August?
Perhaps a rookie free agent?
Enter Marshawn Lynch
I think it’s time the Giants take a calculated risk and trade for a talented running back—and Lynch is that player.
His character issues and ineffectiveness have Buffalo tiring of their 2007 first-round pick, and now he's on the trading block.
It has been said that the Bills were shopping Lynch in hopes of acquiring a second-round pick after they selected C.J. Spiller, but no team was interested. Given the likely desire of the new coach and general manager to change the culture, it remains very realistic that they are still actively shopping Lynch.
Ultimately, I think he can be had for a fourth-round pick. And if that’s the case, the Giants should pull the trigger on it.
Right now, they have two specialty backs in Jacobs and Bradshaw, as well as two unproven backs. Lynch hasn’t exactly compiled an elite resume, but he would immediately become the first all-around back for the Giants since Tiki Barber.
Then, Jacobs and Bradshaw would become specialty backs, as opposed to their excessive workload from last season—which we know they can't handle.
We’ve seen what a fresh Bradshaw can do late in the season, but not Jacobs. Having him relatively protected until December would give the Giants an enormous advantage.
Marshawn Lynch is not a savior for this running game, but he could be an excellent addition. He would provide much needed depth, consistency, versatility, and a new look for a Giants offense that has been vanilla the past couple of seasons.