Gettleman and Shurmur address running back options

Posted Feb 28, 2018

Giants GM Dave Gettleman spoke about improving the trenches and how to scout O-Line prospects: 

Each time Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur are asked about the value of running backs, it’s code for “Are you going to draft Saquon Barkley?”

They know it. The person asking knows it. But the answer won’t come until late April.

Until then, they do this dance.

Today’s waltz came on the floor of the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, where the NFL Scouting Combine kicked off with coaches and general managers meeting the media. The Giants’ new head coach and new general manager made it clear they appreciate the position.

“The position, in general, I think certainly I have a high opinion of what a running back brings to your offense,” Shurmur said. “But I also have a very high opinion that that guy has to be able to run the ball, he has to be able to pass protect, and he has to be able to catch. That’s one of the things that we’ve got to get better at is catching the football. I think that the running back is a huge weapon in the passing game. Whether you just look down the field and you check it down or you dedicate throws to the runner.”

This is when the Barkley camp chimes in that the Penn State product finished his career as the school’s career all-purpose yards leader. He also became the only player in Penn State history and just the fourth Big Ten athlete to gain 3,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving yards in a career.

While Barkley is a tremendous individual talent, Shurmur believes it’s one of the position groups that “takes a village.”

As offensive coordinator for the 13-3 Vikings last season, Shurmur started with rookie Dalvin Cook in the backfield. The second-round pick (41st overall) flew out of the gates, racking up 354 rushing yards to go along with 11 receptions for 90 yards in his first four games in the NFL. However, his season ended there due to a torn ACL. Latavius Murray, his primary backup, took over the bulk of the workload while Jerick McKinnon also contributed. The NFC North champions finished seventh in the league in rushing, averaging 122.3 yards per game.

“The best scenario in my mind at running back is you kind of have a 1, 1-A deal,” Shurmur said. “And as the play caller, you can’t be worried about what plays you’re calling because, oh, this guy can’t catch. Or, oh, this guy can only run the ball. Because, you know, the defense knows all that, too. So you’ve got to have a guy, in my opinion, at running back that’s a multi-dimensional guy. Really, I’ve got no use for any offensive skill player that can’t catch, and the running back is no different.”

That’s certainly what Gettleman had in his mind last year when he drafted dual threats Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel in the first two rounds. McCaffrey caught 80 passes, third-most among running backs last season behind Le'Veon Bell (85) and Alvin Kamara (81).

“The bottom line is: is the guy a football player?” Gettleman said. “This whole myth of devaluing running backs, I find it kind of comical. At the end of the day, if he’s a great player, he’s a great player. It doesn’t matter what position he is. The other thing, listening to Pat, sometimes I think it gets lost that football is the ultimate team game. You blow the whistle, 11 guys have to go out there. Offense, defense and special teams. Everyone has to understand that every player is important.”

But is there a particular running back important enough for the No. 2 pick? Or do you find one later in the draft, especially considering Kamara, the reigning AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, was a third-round pick.

“Good point,” Shurmur said with a smile as if he had never thought about dilemma. “I’ll run it up the flagpole.”

And we’ll leave it at that.