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Darkwa returns to New Orleans as impact player on Giants

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Scoring three touchdowns in a debut at Tulane doesn't mean a player can automatically call himself Orleans.


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That's what people around the New Orleans-based university kidded Orleans Darkwa about as a freshman in 2010.

But it's not a nickname. It's a common name in Ghana, where his family hails from. Still, people needed proof.

"Everybody asked me that," said Darkwa, who went on to break the Green Wave's freshman rushing record.

"When I went to New Orleans, people didn't believe that was my name until I pulled out my ID. That's my real name."

Now everyone is learning it as he heads back to New Orleans this week to take on the Saints.

After having no touches through the first six games, Darkwa, the fourth running back behind Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams and Shane Vereen, led the team with eight carries last Sunday in the victory over Dallas. Darkwa sparked the run game with 48 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown which was the offense's lone score of the day.

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The last team in the NFL without a 100-yard rushing game at that point, the Giants ran the ball 21 times for 136 yards (6.5 yards per carry), not counting the four kneel-downs by Eli Manning at the end of the game.

"It gives a lot of confidence," said Darkwa, who led the Giants in the preseason with 30 rushing attempts for 131 yards and a touchdown. "Last week you've just got to act like you've been there. You don't want to go out there and do anything out of ordinary, just try to go out there and be myself and do what I have to do to get the team a win."

Added Darkwa: "I'm hungry all the time. I think that my running style didn't change from preseason to now. I try to run with force, run with power and speed at the same time. The O-line did a great job of opening the holes for me, opening the holes for all the backs, so we were able to exploit that."

How the coaching staff divvies up the carries this week remains to be seen.

Big Blue will be going against a Saints defense that allows 129.1 rushing yards per game (28th in the NFL) and 4.9 yards per attempt (29th).

"My preparation stays the same," Darkwa said. "I check in with special teams and the offense, I prepare equally. As far as knowing that if I get the opportunity to get carries this week, I'll be ready like I was all the other weeks."

Despite the Saints' numbers, their crowd can be an equalizer.

While Tulane football didn't draw the same numbers as the city's NFL franchise, Darkwa knows all about the noise at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, which was home to the Green Wave until moving into Yulman Stadium in 2014.

In his final game in the dome, Darkwa was named MVP of the New Orleans Bowl after running for 83 yards and a bowl-record three touchdowns on 16 carries vs. Louisiana-Lafayette.

"It's loud," he said. "It's very loud. We prepped for that today. Everybody talks about their fans, they get rowdy. We're doing a great job with a crowd simulator out there. Eli [Manning]is getting the calls to everybody today, we did a pretty good job with that. We've just got to keep that going through practice, and it shouldn't be much of a problem."

Darkwa and the Giants' backfield was just one of the many topics buzzing around the Quest Diagnostics Training Center on Wednesday. Here are the main takeaways from the day:

1. COACH, PLAYERS REACT TO JPP'S RETURN

Jason Pierre-Paul rejoined the Giants this week, agreeing to a contract that will enable the two-time Pro Bowl defensive end to begin working toward a return to the playing field.

"We're all rooting for him, to be honest with you," coach Tom Coughlin said. "He had a very traumatic experience and he's done really what appears to be an outstanding job of preparing himself. He is mentally very upbeat, his attitude is outstanding."

"It's good to have him back," Manning said. "Hopefully he can get back into playing shape and football shape and get back on the field soon. Until that, we've just got to keep going about our business. I know it's good to have all your players, good to have him back in the locker room and hopefully he can help us out."

"It was great," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "We got a chance to—while we were doing our drill, you look down and you see him doing it and he moves well. He's still fast as ever, quick as ever. Excited to see him get back in action and go out."

2. ODELL FULL-GO; INJURY REPORT

CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral), LB Jon Beason (ankle), WR Victor Cruz (calf), DE Owa Odighizuwa (hamstring), OL Geoff Schwartz and LB J.T. Thomas (ankle) did not practice. LB Uani 'Unga (neck) was limited. WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring) was full-go.

"I think we're back to the normal routine," Beckham said. "I don't really quite know yet, but I definitely do feel better."

3. THIRD DOWN WILL BE KEY ON SUNDAY

Playmakers on Saints first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike

Coughlin likes to start his Wednesday press conferences with a scouting report on the upcoming opponent, and one of the first things he mentioned about the Saints' defense was third down. Their opponents are converting just 33.7 percent of the time, which is the fourth-best mark in the league. Conversely, the Giants are No. 11 in that department on offense with a third-down conversion percentage of 40.6.

"We've got to stick with it," Manning said. "They've got a good defense, they're really good on third down. They've done a great job getting guys off the field, I think they're in the top-five in getting guys off the field on third down. We've got to get good down and distance, good first and second down production so we get manageable situations and be able to get the ball out without having to hold the ball too long back there with that pass rush."

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