EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Running backs Rashad Jennings and Paul Perkins dress at adjacent lockers when the Giants play on the road. As they put on their uniforms for last week’s game in Washington, Jennings had a message for Perkins, the rookie who was replacing his veteran mentor and making his first career start.
What was Perkins’ reaction?
“He just looked at me and said, ‘Man, it means a lot,’” Jennings said. “‘Don’t make me cry before the game.’”
Perkins regained his composure well enough to register 21 carries for 102 yards, the Giants’ first individual 100-yard game of the season. Jennings added 52 yards and the team’s only offensive touchdown in a 19-10 victory. The Giants ran for a season-high 161 yards.
On Sunday, the Giants will likely need Perkins and Jennings to provide another 1-2 punch on the ground when they take on the Green Bay Packers in an NFC Wild Card Game in Lambeau Field. They’re confident they will.
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“I have high expectations for myself,” Perkins said. “I’m looking forward to doing better things. I left a lot of yards on the field last week. It doesn’t mean anything if I don’t back it up this week.”
“I think we have something special going here with that kind of duo,” Jennings said.
Jennings led the Giants with 593 yards and three rushing touchdowns in the regular season. Perkins was second with 456 yards, and he had a higher per-carry average (4.1 to 3.3). Coach Ben McAdoo hasn’t said who will start in Green Bay. But it’s clear that a) Perkins impressed the coaches in Washington, and b) both backs, and most likely Bobby Rainey, will contribute.
“Paul did a great job, I mean he did a phenomenal job, made some guys miss,” offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. “He's done some of the things that we've seen throughout the season; whether it's being able to make guys miss or break arm tackles. I think Rashad Jennings did a lot of good things as well. You look at him picking his feet up there, the touchdown run that he had. The two guys complement each other. Bobby Rainey gets called into action in terms of some of the two-minute, third-down situations, and so we feel very fortunate that we've got three guys that we can count on to carry the load for us.”
The shared workload has strengthened their bond.
“Tremendously,” Perkins said of how much the eight-year veteran has helped him. “To know that you have friends and teammates that are backing you up, it means the world.
“He definitely gave me some encouraging words (before the game last week). He was just telling me that he has my back.”
The Giants practiced outside today to better prepare for the frigid conditions they will encounter in Lambeau, where the wind chill is expected to hover around zero. While most of the players were fortified with thermals and sweatshirts, Jennings and Perkins wore short sleeves. Perkins, an Arizona native who played college football at UCLA, wore shorts.
“He’s coming from a different area,” Jennings said. “No sleeves. If you’re a back and you’re carrying the ball, you can’t wear sleeves. It’s a no-no. It’s a recipe for disaster. Practicing in that climate, letting the skin touch the cold weather and holding the football, you have to practice that way. The most important thing in the game is the football. It’s the name of the game. We have to protect it.”
They’ll each have an opportunity to do that on Sunday.