Are The Giants Deeper Than Ever At Running Back?
The New York Giants have been particularly lucky over the last decade and a half when it comes to the running back position. A few times they've even had the fortune of putting together a legitimate running back corps with multiple ball-carriers platooning at the position and handling different roles in the running game.
These days, such a thing isn't unheard of around the league. The Denver Broncos of the early aughts practically revolutionized the running back platoon and still regularly employ at least three or four full time running backs. Several other teams in the league have also begun to drift away from the single featured back and have gravitated towards having multiple players in the backfield. The Giants experimented with this during their 2000 run to the Super Bowl with Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne — come on, who can forget "Thunder and Lightning"? — and then again during the 2007-08 seasons with the trio of Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw and Derrick Ward, also known as "Earth, Wind and Fire".
But now, after several years of decreasing productivity from the running back position, it appears as if the Giants have rebuilt their backfield and may enter the 2014 season with one of their deepest running back corps ever. After drafting Heisman candidate Andre Williams from Boston College in the third round of the draft, the Giants now have a stable of backs that include Williams, Rashad Jennings, David Wilson, Peyton Hillis, Michael Cox and Kendall Gaskins. That's a total of six running backs that the team will be entering training camp with.
Although Wilson is recovering from a major neck injury and subsequent surgery and still has not been cleared for contact as the team heads into OTAs, there is still hope that he will be healthy enough to contribute once the regular season begins. If Wilson is able to contribute some playing time, the Giants will be equipped with a diverse group of running backs that can all lend a hand in different aspects of the run game. For example, where Wilson may lack in his ability to pick up a blitz, Williams and Hillis have demonstrated that they are capable of protecting the quarterback. Where Williams may be inexperienced in being a pass-catcher out of the backfield, Jennings and Hillis have shown an ability to contribute to the passing game throughout their careers.
With such an eclectic group of running backs with such different styles and strengths, the Giants may finally be able to build a sound running game that can control the clock, control the line of scrimmage and wear down defenses, which is something that Eli Manning has sorely needed over the last few seasons. Having an effective running game will open up the passing lanes for Manning, which will be especially key in Ben McAdoo's new offensive system, which should feature a healthy mix of run and pass and, hopefully, a healthy dose of screen passes as well.
Although it's doubtful that all six running backs currently on the Giants roster will suit up for Week 1 of the regular season (it's more likely that four or five will be the actual number), the Giants will begin the season with a complete and (relatively) healthy backfield for the first time in quite a while, and that's certainly something to look forward to.