Giants 2012 Training Camp Preview: Running Backs
In Part 2 of our 2012 training camp preview, we look at the running backs.
The Players: Ahmad Bradshaw, David Wilson(R), DJ Ware, Da’Rel Scott, Andre Brown, Joe Martinek (R), Henry Hynoski (FB)
The Storylines: Last season, the Giants’ running game was ranked dead last in the NFL with an 89.2 yards-per-game average. While part of that was a result of a new offensive line configuration that, by extension included a new tight end and a new fullback, the running backs must also take their share of the blame.
This is partly why the unit was tweaked this past off-season. Brandon Jacobs was sent packing after he refused a pay cut, and the Giants added Wilson, the 5-9, 205 lb. speedy back out of Virginia Tech whom offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said, “I don’t know if we have had a guy as explosive, regardless of the position, here. I think Da’Rel Scott gives you – in a 100-yard dash – you may be able to beat him, but I don’t know that you see quite the darting, the explosiveness, and short bursts that you see with him.”
A second story line worth watching is who emerges as the short-yardage back. In the past, Brandon Jacobs held this role, but wasn’t successful. Bradshaw held it for a bit as well, but concerns about his feet, which have been a problem every year since he became a starter, could make the coaches reluctant to add that responsibility to Bradshaw’s workload.
So, the short yardage back role could very well come down to either Ware or Scott, though a dark horse candidate could be Hynoski, whose weight of 266 lbs. is on par with Jacobs’ weight.
A third storyline that has generated some fan interest is that of Martinek, an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers who will work at both fullback and running back this summer. The reason the Giants are going to give him a look-see at both positions is because this year, given the injury situation at tight end, the team likely can’t afford to spare Bear Pascoe, the backup fullback the last two seasons, should something happen to Hynoski.
If Martinek can show he’s capable of handling the reps he gets at the fullback role, he’s going to increase his chances of hanging around on the practice squad, as the Giants are unlikely to keep two fullbacks on the roster.
As far as his work at running back is concerned, Martinek, like the other running backs, will need to show that he can pass block. Indeed, pass blocking could be the deciding factor in terms of whom, from the trio of Ware, Scott, and Brown, gets the third running back spot this year if all thing are equal in terms of their running ability.
Keep an Eye On: Last year, Scott was used sparingly for the simple reason that as a rookie coming in with no off-season, he lacked the goods to produce in a pass-blocking role.
This year is a different story. Scott spent the off-season bulking up, working on his strength, and studying film. He’s a lot more comfortable with the playbook and aid he understands the pass protection concepts better than a year ago. How well that understanding transfers to the field is another story, but if he can put it all together, fans who have clamored to see more of Scott could finally get their wish this year.
Predictions: Bradshaw and Wilson should be one and two respectively on opening day if Wilson shows he can pass block. Certainly, he’ll get a crash course in that area this summer.
The third running back spot is still up in the air, but based on the spring showing, Ware will likely go into camp as the incumbent. A concern, though, with Ware is that at times this spring, he ran with his head down. If he’s going to do that, he’s going to continue to be susceptible to the big hit and potential concussion, of which he’s already had two.
With that said, I don’t believe Ware is a lock for a roster spot – I think, again based on my observations from the spring, that Scott might emerge as the third running back if he can show that he can pass block. Again, it boils down to who shows consistency.
As for Brown, while he made progress according to the coaches in terms of learning the offense, I think he is going to be the odd man out.