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2018 Position Preview: Running Backs

Today we continue our offseason position previews with a look at the Giants running backs. This includes their lone fullback on the roster, Shane Smith. Rhett Ellison might be lined up in the backfield as a fullback but for the purpose of this exercise he will be considered a tight end.

Craig Johnson was one of the holdovers from the Giants staff last year, having coached running backs for the team since 2014 when he was hired by Tom Coughlin to replace Jerald Ingram. He previously coached quarterbacks for the Vikings and Titans, where he also spent a year coaching running backs.

The Giants have made a lot of changes to the position this offseason by adding both rookies and veterans to the depth chart. Pat Shurmur has said "it takes a village" when it comes to the running back position a few times this offseason so it is possible a number of different players will have some kind of role in the offense this year.

Saquon Barkley: Barkley was picked second overall by the Giants in the NFL draft after totaling 2843 rushing yards, 1195 receiving yards and 51 touchdowns over three seasons for the Penn State Nittany Lions. At 5'11 and 233 pounds, he was touted as an all-around three down back, Barkley is expected to have a big role in the Giants offense in 2018. 

Dave Gettleman said it best when discussing his unique skillset: "The thing that makes him different is he has the feet and speed of a little guy, with the power and strength of a big guy. That's what makes him so darn unique. He's different. It's like he was touched by the hand of God, frankly."

Practice Notes: Barkley is an accomplished pass receiver that will do more than just catch dump offs as he was sent down the field many times over the course of spring workouts. He has very quick feet with elite jump cut ability and explosion. He seemed to be on top of his assignments as well. If I had to guess, I would expect a total of anywhere from 20-25 touches from him per game as a running back, receiver or kick returner.

Jonathan Stewart: Stewart arrived with Dave Gettleman from the Carolina Panthers where he played for 10 seasons and accrued 1699 rushing yards and 51 rushing touchdown. A big bodied back at 5'10 and 240 pounds he is strong between the tackles and has seen everything the NFL has to offer. The 31 one year old can find a role on this team spotting Barkley on first and second down as well as in short yardage situations. 

Practice Notes: A guy like Stewart is not going to wow anyone during workouts with no pads or contact. He excels in picking up the dirty yards and using his power to run through arm tackles. He has been in the league a long time and knows what he is doing. I look forward to seeing him on the field this season.

Wayne Gallman: Gallman was the Giants 4th round pick in 2017 out of Clemson. At 6'0 and 210 pounds he is a versatile back that can run with power and speed. As a rookie last season, he ran for 476 yards on 111 carries at a 4.3 yards per carry clip. He also caught 34 passes for 193 yards. He showed three down capabilities as he improved in blitz pickup throughout the season.  

Practice Notes: Gallman looked much steadier in his assignments in his second offseason. It is hard to tell how much he improved as a runner without anyone trying to tackle him. Much like Barkley, the Giants have utilized him in the passing game during practices, many times sending him down the field on wheel routes. He will try to prove he is worthy of having touches carved out for him during preseason games.

Paul Perkins: Perkins is currently on the Giants non-football injury list and the team hasn't indicated any timetable for his return. Perkins, obviously, hopes to return at some point before the season starts so he can earn some kind of role on the roster. The Giants 5th round pick in 2016, Perkins finished his rookie year strong with 456 yards on the ground. He took a step back in 2017 with only 90 rushing yards on 41 carries while battling a rib injury in the middle of the season. Perkins has quickness and the receiving skills to be a factor in the passing game if he can figure things out. He did not participate in any spring practices.

Jalen Simmons: Simmons was undrafted out of South Carolina State in 2016 and was brought on by the Panthers as an undrafted free agent. Before the 2016 started, Simmons was cut by the Panthers but brought back on a futures contract the following offseason. He was on the Panthers practice squad in 2017 until December when he was let go and went to the Chargers practice squad before being signed to a futures contract by the Giants in January. 

Practice Notes: Simmons is a unique body type at 5'8 and 220 pounds. He runs close to the ground and it will be interesting how that low center of gravity translates when defenders are trying to tackle him in live action.

Robert Martin: Martin was a try-out player at Giants rookie mini-camp and did enough to get signed as an undrafted free agent. In four years at Rutgers, Martin rushed for 2274 yards on 449 carries. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry and ran for 18 touchdowns. 

Practice Notes: Martin is one of the guys that stood out to me during rookie mini-camp and I thought he had a chance to hang on. At 5'11 and 207 pounds, he has the size you want at the position. Much like Jalen Simmons, it will be how he performs in preseason games that will determine if he can stick with the organization.

Shane Smith: Smith is the only true fullback on the Giants roster. At 6'1 and 241 pounds he is the old school bruising lead blocker type teams look for. Smith was undrafted out of Sam Jose State in 2017 and made the team out of training camp. He was on the active roster until he was waived on September 28th and was brought back on November 11th. He played in 11 games but did not touch the ball. 

Practice Notes: Smith plays for contact and lead blocking so there isn't much you can see from him in practice. Pat Shurmur wants all his players to be able to catch the ball so that will be important for him to show to make the roster. There is a role for a lead blocking fullback in the Giants offense, but Smith will have to show he can fulfill that role better than someone like Rhett Ellison.

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