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Giants running backs look to break out vs. Patriots

Posted Aug 29, 2017

Head coach Ben McAdoo and running back Paul Perkins assess the Giants' ground game:


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Ben McAdoo reiterated today that the NFL preseason does not correlate to what happens in the regular season.

“It’s a different game,” McAdoo said. “The games are played for different reasons. You’re trying to evaluate your team, evaluate the players on your team.”

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Given that, perhaps the Giants rushing statistics through three preseason games mean nothing. But for a team that wanted to improve its ground game this year, they are noticeable.

The Giants have averaged 76.3 yards a game and 3.1 yards-per-carry. In the 2016 regular season, those numbers were 88.3 and 3.5. The Giants have played most of their offensive series without their starting linemen or back. Rookie Wayne Gallman leads the team with 22 carries and 76 yards. Paul Perkins, who is expected to start, has run for 46 yards on 17 attempts, and has the Giants’ long run of 16 yards. And he is confident the numbers will improve when the games begin to count, on Sept. 10 in Dallas.

“It’s just only a matter of time,” Perkins said today. “We’re just making steps in the right direction, continuing to progress, and I think we’ll be in our stride for the regular season.

“Progress – that’s the biggest thing for us. Coach’s mantra is 1% better (every day), so I think we’re definitely following that mantra.”

Perkins said he has seen where the Giants can improve when he watches tape. “Whether it’s misreads from the running backs,” he said, “or just the minor details that we can clean up, and help the offensive line improve their blocks.”
The Giants will conclude their preseason Thursday night against the Patriots in New England, where most of the starters will play little or not at all. But Perkins said he will treat it like a “regular game. Film study, doing everything that I usually do. It’s just a regular game - preseason or not.”

Perkins rushed for 33 yards on six carries in the Giants’ 32-31 victory against the Jets on Saturday night. McAdoo pegged the second-year pro as the starter early in the offseason. In response to a recent question, McAdoo said, “By no means have I lost confidence in Paul Perkins.”

How does Perkins think he has performed?

“Like I said before, progress,” he said. “I think we’re really coming together, gelling together as a team, as an offense, and just the cohesiveness on the offensive side of the ball is coming together.”

Seven-year veteran Shane Vereen, fourth-year pro Orleans Darkwa and Gallman, the Giants’ fourth-round draft choice this year, are competing to be Perkins’ top backup.

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“I feel completely different from when I first got here,” Gallman said. “I have a greater grasp on the playbook. I feel very comfortable out there. I am at the point now where I know the play, but sometimes I might think too much about what else I may have on the play, and I am learning to get over that, but that’s just the next step.”
Gallman is accustomed to a heavier workload. In his final two years at Clemson – including the 2016 national championship season - he had 515 carries (about 18 a game) for 2,660 yards and 30 touchdowns.

“I can only tell you it is pushing me to go out and practice harder, go out and play harder and prove myself,” he said. “I am very impatient, but I am learning to be patient and know that when the time comes, I have to take my chance.”

One teammate who is helping him is Perkins. A fifth-round draft choice last year, Perkins had to fight for carries in his rookie camp with Rashad Jennings, Vereen and Darkwa. He didn’t start a game until the regular-season finale in Washington, where he had the Giants’ lone 100-yard performance of the season. He understands Gallman’s current predicament.

“Perk had to be patient a lot last year,” Gallman said. “He was telling me I am in a better position than he was, but it’s all about patience, just learning and doing the best I can on special teams, and just taking each and every day like I am a pro.”

With all the backs sharing that attitude, the arrow could soon point up for the Giants’ ground game.

“We have high expectations for ourselves,” Perkins said. “If we keep a high ceiling like that, it could take all year. We want to be the best, so just continue to progress and learn from our mistakes.”