Offensive backfield regroups without Wilson

Posted Aug 5, 2014

The Giants running backs looks to regroup following the announcement that David Wilson’s career has ended

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It seems almost heartless to assess the Giants’ offensive backfield in the wake of the announcement that David Wilson’s career has ended prematurely due to a neck injury. But the team and NFL march on, and the Giants have just 33 days until their regular-season opener in Detroit.

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Wilson will be missed, but the Giants still have talent and depth at running back. That was evident in the 17-13 preseason-opening victory Sunday night against Buffalo in the Hall of Fame Game.

>> David Wilson talks about injury

Starter Rashad Jennings and backups Andre Williams and Peyton Hillis each had seven carries. Jennings ran for 23 yards (and caught three passes for 20 more), Williams had a team-high 48 yards, including a 21-yarder and a three-yard touchdown, and Hillis added 36 yards.

“I think we got to show some physicality,” Jennings said. “I think we got to show that we’ve got multiple backs in the backfield.”

“I still think it could be a great running back group, I do,” Hillis said. “I think that we have really improved on the offensive line and I think we have backs in the backfield that get it. I think that we can have a great year, yes.”

Hillis is listed as the No. 2 back on the Giants’ current depth chart, but Williams was the second back in the game. The rookie fourth-round draft choice from Boston College appears ready to contribute immediately.

“I think the Giants drafted me because they had the confidence in my ability to play at this level,” Williams said. “I’m just going to embrace that and understand that I can play here. Just have to keep working to get better.”

Against Buffalo, Williams displayed some speed going around left end on his 21-yard run, and power on his touchdown up the middle.

“It definitely makes you more confident,” he said. “They tell you that the game is going to be fast and you have to get used to things. Just stepping on the field on Sunday was great to know that I feel that I can play at this level.”

Williams has a big fan in his veteran backfield mate, Jennings.

“He did exactly what we thought,” Jennings said. “He’s a physical guy, downhill runner. He’s a young guy, excited to play. He wants to learn, he wants to be great. When he came in and tagged me in, I could see the white in his eyes. He was nervous. I told him after the first play that you realize it’s just football. I was happy to see him get in, get a touchdown, get some confidence and see who’s going to do great things in the backfield.”

Hillis is a seven-year pro who joined the Giants last Oct. 16, after they sustained several injuries at running back. He was thought to be fighting for a roster spot, but may now have a clearer path with Wilson’s departure and his performance against the Bills.

So how does Hillis view the current mixture at running back?

“I really wouldn’t lie to you – I don’t know,” he said. “It seems like in practice and in games they just put us in there in the spur of the moment to see what we’ve got. I think we have a lot of guys who can go out there and produce. I think a lot of it is saving guy’s legs and protecting guys, so as of right now, as far as the running back chart, I really don’t know what it is.”

The running backs will likely be asked to catch more passes in the Giants’ new offensive scheme. That’s fine with Jennings, who showed Sunday he has a good pair of hands.

“That’s something I’ve always kind of prided myself in,” he said. “I really always wanted to be a complete back in the NFL, so catching out of the backfield is something huge, it’s a big part that makes defenses have to play honest. And also, you can be quarterback-friendly and always there. If the quarterback is in trouble, your routes are nine times out of 10 going to be closest to the QB. That’s a good way to get extra hidden yards and also keep defenses on their toes.

“I like this offense because we have tools. We have tools to fix any problem a defense throws at us. Eli (Manning) has a great control of the offense and is able to put us in good positions, good plays that we can find those hidden yardages and pop the big ones in the passing game and also in the run game.”

Sounds like an offense that’s going to be a lot of fun for the denizens of the backfield.

  • Tomorrow’s practice (Wed., Aug. 6 from 5:40PM to 7:50PM) will include several special opportunities for Giants fans.  David Diehl, Shaun O’Hara, Kareem McKenzie and Deon Grant will be in attendance to sign autographs from 5:45PM to 7:45PM.  Fans will receive a limited edition “Giants Pride” t-shirt featuring the team’s 90th season commemorative logo on the chest, as well as a Giants pride poster or 90th season pennant.  There will also be face painting stations and inflatable activities for kids.  The Giants current linebacker group will each sign for the fans for 15 minutes at the conclusion of practice.

    In the event that inclement weather closes practice to the public, the rain date for these activities will be Monday, August 11th when practice runs from 3:20PM - 5:30PM.