We continue our “Blog Bits” series with John Conner, who is locked in a battle with Henry Hynoski for the starting fullback position.
Conner joined the Giants last year after Hynoski suffered a season-ending injury in Week 3. Per the contract data at Over the Cap, Conner as the only one of the players signed after the start of the 2013 season who received a multiyear deal (two years).
According to Pro Football Focus, Conner played in 245 offensive snaps for the Giants that began in Week 6, finishing with a 9.0 overall grade, and a 7.0 run blocking grade.
In a statistical study that I prepared for Bleacher Report last November, I noted how the Giants running game averaged 56.8 yards per during their 0-5 start to the 2013 season (games played before Conner was inserted into the offense).
In the five games that followed, in which the Giants went 4-1 and in which Conner was in the lineup, that average soared to 97.2 yards per game, this despite the revolving door at running back and the continued weekly deterioration of the offensive line.
What was the constant? Conner, who this past offseason added noticeable muscle to his upper body and who looks like he’s light on his feet when he runs despite the role he will have to play.
Despite being a steady presence, Conner will still have to compete for a job on the Giants with Hynoski, who prior to suffering knee and shoulder injuries, was a fast-riser at fullback.
In 2012, Hynoski’s second season, the Giants rushing attack averaged 116.3 yards per game, which was probably a big reason Hynoski, despite his injuries, was re-signed to a one-year contract worth a reported $1 million total in March.
If you are looking for a clue as to whether Conner or Hynoski is ahead in the battle, the answer is that it’s a dead even race because the fullbacks have not been able to block in the spring workouts, which will be a main criteria for the starter.
As ball carriers and receivers, both men have had opportunities and have looked good.
“Henry and John have both done a nice job,” said offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. “We mix, we’re in and out of personnel groups and those types of things at this point. You like to use the fullback. The way I was raised, a fullback’s a big part of the things you do.”
The Terminator vs. the Hynocerous” Coming soon to a football field near you.
For now, let’s hear what the Terminator (Conner), who has 21 career rushing attempts for 88 yards and two touchdowns, and 10 career receptions for 49 yards, had to say about the Giants’ new offense and his looming roster battle with Hynoski.
Q: So far it doesn’t seem like the fullback has been used as much this spring. What kind of role does the position have in Ben McAdoo’s offense?
A: It looks like the fullback is being used a lot in the single back stuff, so that could be good for us. The more we can do, the better. We’ve had a lot single-back stuff, gotten some carries from that, caught some passes, so we’ll see. We just have to go out there and prove that we’re worthy.
Q: Based on what you remember from last year, what’s the biggest difference between the two offenses for the fullback?
Last year there was definitely a lot more reps for the position, a lot of two-back sets. This year, there’s a lot more single back. I guess we’re going to see what we have and how we’re going to attack the defense in camp.
Everyone’s still learning. We’re still not done installing, so I guess when we get to training camp, we’re going to see how the fullback is going to be used.
Q: Even though the reps are down, it seems when you are in there, there is a greater chance for more touches. Is that something you think can give a guy a leg up in this competition?
A: The more you can do. I’m certainly not going to complain if I get a few more carries and catches. I guess we’ll see how training camp goes.
Q: Has it been difficult for you this spring? I mean you’re a blocker—that’s how a fullback generally makes his living. Yet because of the no-contact nature of the OTAs and minicamp, you have to significantly dial it back at your position because you can’t go out there and knock people out of holes.
A: Yeah, it’s tough, but you have to be smart about it. Right now, we have to take care of each other; we don’t want to hurt our teammates. Once training camp comes and we put the pads on, we’ll be able to get a better picture and do more of the things the fullback position calls for.
Q: As a rookie, you made quite an impression when you were with the Jets, what with fighting for a roster spot. Now that you’re fighting for a spot here, do you approach it like you did as a rookie?
A: You have to, even if you aren’t in a competition. I don’t look at it as a competition; I’m just trying to improve myself every year and trying to be the best player I can be. That’s something I’ve been used to doing from my first year to this year and is something that I feel won’t ever change, what with being a fullback and looking at competition. I’d like to think that I’ve reached a point where I’m a pretty good NFL fullback, but if I have to compete, I have to compete. I love the competition and bringing the best out of myself.