This Sunday, the New York Giants host the Carolina Panthers. The previous two weeks have treated these two teams very differently. Carolina has assumed the title of the NFL's best rushing attack with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart carrying the load. Meanwhile, the Giants attack has come to a screeching halt after the loss of Brandon Jacobs to a nagging knee injury. With Jacobs looking likely to play this Sunday many are curious to see what effect his return will have on the Giants once dominant backfield.
The league has not seen many backs like Jacobs. Standing 6'4" and weighing 264 lbs., he presents a rare challenge for any defender. Most lineman cannot keep up with him, and few defensive backs can bring him down alone (ask Charles Woodson). Jacobs seems to relish dishing out abuse when he runs. In his absence, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw have tried to pick up the slack, but those efforts have fallen short. Not all of the blame falls at their feet however, after losing Plaxico Burress to self inflicted gunshot wound.
That being said, what Jacobs brings is attitude to the Giants backfield. Bradshaw and Ward are good backs, but their skills sets are enhanced by Jacobs skill set. Jacobs dishes out abuse for the first quarter, and then Ward and Bradshaw are worked into the mix. After dealing with Jacobs, defenses find it difficult to deal with Bradshaw's speed, and quick first step. Ward is a balance of the two.
By having all three at their disposal, the Giants have the luxury of adapting/avoiding the strength of the defense. Pick your poison with the Giants backfield. This effect is also seen in the passing game. By running, almost at will, the Giants force teams to bring eight men in to the box. This then frees up receivers as they see more man coverage, giving Eli Manning more leeway to pick apart defensive backfields.
Combine all of these factors with the poor play of the Giants O-line the past two weeks, a trend I expect to stop this week, and I do not envy Carolina's decision. This will be a great game this Sunday, if anyone needs popcorn I think TO has some.