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Balanced attack is key to Giants ground game

Posted Oct 29, 2015

The Giants are using their full Running Back depth with positive results

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Rashad Jennings leads the Giants with 71 rushing attempts, 22 more than runner-up Andre Williams. But the team’s rushing attack is more than a one or even two-man endeavor, as we saw in the Giants’ 27-20 victory over Dallas last week.

The Giants rushed for a season-high 132 yards – the first time they exceeded 100 yards this year – as four different running backs each had at least four carries. It was the first time in 15 years they ran for so many yards without a back getting at least 10 attempts.

Orleans Darkwa led the team with eight carries (for 48 yards and a touchdown). Shane Vereen had a team-high 56 yards (on four attempts, including a 39-yarder). Jennings added 19 yards on five carries, and Williams had 13 on four attempts. Eli Manning had minus-four yards on four kneel-downs.

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“I think our offensive line did an outstanding job putting body on body, giving us that opportunity to hit the holes,” Jennings said. “The backs ran hard and we were running through arm tackles, running over people, and making plays. And, obviously, Eli controlling the huddle, putting us in great situations, receivers catching the ball to keep the field spread out, and playing team ball to help out.”

The Giants play in New Orleans on Sunday, and the carries by committee procedure could continue against the Saints. Then again, it might not.

“There are roles and, fortunately, we have four guys to do that,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “Can you have enough snaps for four? Maybe not. But on a game-to-game basis, you can, you certainly can. We’ll continue to analyze the opponent, where we think we need to be able to utilize the talents of the guys we have.”

Jennings led the Giants in carries or rushing yards in each of the first six games, and three times topped the team in both categories. But against Dallas, he was second in attempts and third in yards.

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“It’s a body of work, that’s how we see ourselves in the backfield,” Jennings said. “It’s just one body of work, no matter who’s getting the carries. I’ve said this, it’s not a surprise to hear it coming out of my mouth, I said this last year that we’ve got guys in the backfield that can tote the rock. So we’re a body of work, whoever is in there is representing the backfield runner.”

Last week, the spotlight was on Darkwa and Vereen. Darkwa carried the ball for the first time since last Dec. 21 in St. Louis, where he scored his first NFL touchdown. His eight carries and 48 yards were both career highs, and his 15-yard touchdown was his longest run in two NFL seasons.

“I think he has a good feel,” offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said. “He has the vision, he has the instincts where he can find the crevice. They’re tough to find, he can get those tough yards and make them look easy at times.
 
 “Orleans has been doing a great job on special teams, he’s a core guy for us, does an outstanding job there for us. We know he has some talent. Had a good skillset to play running back and contribute in that area, and his number was called and he responded well.”


Last season, Williams led the Giants with 217 rushing attempts. Jennings, who missed five games with injuries, had 167. This year, he is on pace to lead the team with 162.

Several NFL teams use two or three backs instead of one player carrying a much heavier load than his teammates. But Jennings believes the workhorse back is not nearing extinction in the NFL.

“I don’t see that going away,” he said. “Every team is different. This team is built with great, great running backs that can tote the rock. It helps us spread the room and defenses have to prepare for each player differently. It keeps us healthy. I think it’s great.

“I think everyone in our room is capable of being an every down back.”

With nine games remaining, each one of them might get that opportunity.

•  Five Giants players did not practice today: cornerback Prince Amukamara (pectoral), linebackers Jon Beason (ankle) and J.T. Thomas (ankle), defensive end Owa Odighizuwa (hamstring) and wide receiver Victor Cruz.

Guard Geoff Schwartz (ankle) was limited.

Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring) and linebacker Uani ‘Unga (neck) practiced fully.

Asked about Beckham, McAdoo said, “Today, he was sticking his foot in the ground, he was coming out of his breaks with some speed and energy and made some nice plays.”