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Fact or Fiction: Best role for Shane Vereen


Shane Vereen will have more pass targets than rush attempts.**


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JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -In his most targeted season in New England (2014), Vereen had 77 targets. If he plays in 16 games, that equates to slightly fewer than five per game. If I had to place a bet today, I think Vereen averages closer to six or seven rushes per game this year.

If Rashad Jennings gets hurt again, this will be a fiction, and it won't even be close. The way this becomes a fact is if Jennings and Williams are very effective as runners, and Vereen isn't needed to carry the much.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact -First let's look at his past numbers. In four seasons, Vereen had more targets than rushing attempts in just one of them. That was in 2013 when he had 69 targets compared to 44 carries.

However, he played in just eight games that season with one start for his former team, the New England Patriots. But that was then. Vereen is now with a new team and an offensive coordinator in Ben McAdoo, who is entering his second season. Assuming the running backs stay relatively healthy, Vereen could be a staple in Eli Manning's arsenal a year after the quarterback set a career high in completion percentage.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact -Shane Vereen's career stats don't support my cause so my rationale is simply based on the Giants

depth chart and the distribution of carries versus receptions. In two of the last three seasons, he's had more rushing attempts than targets including 2014 when he had 96 rushes compared to 77 targets. Keep in mind, New England rotated running backs based on matchups, so players were constantly in and out of the lineup and roles changed week to week. Last season, Jonas Gray, Stevan Ridley and Vereen each had at least 89 carries, but Vereen ran away with the targets. The next closest running back had just 23. Unlike the Patriots, the Giants' three running backs, I think, will have more consistent, defined roles with Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams handling most of the first and second down duties…Vereen as the change of pace back.

To put things in perspective, last season, Jennings and Williams combined for 78 targets…Vereen alone had 77. With the latter's versatility, he can play out of the slot as a receiver and should thrive in a system where the quarterback is encouraged to get rid of the ball quickly. As long as Jennings and Williams both stay healthy, I can see them doing a lot of the heavy lifting on the ground while Vereen does most of his damage through the air.


Johnathan Hankins is the most likely first-time Pro Bowler.**

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -Hankins is number two in my book, but I'm going to go with Prince Amukamara. For a couple seasons, when healthy, Prince has been one of the best cornerbacks in football.

Hankins, meanwhile, has only played on that level for one season. Prince's health, of course, is the real trick. He has only played a full 16-game season once, and he told me the other day that is a huge goal for him this year.

If he can do it, there's a good chance he is in the Pro Bowl.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact -After playing a limited role as a rookie in 2013, Hankins had a breakout campaign last season, takes a look at the Pro Bowl through the years.

setting the stage for a chance to separate himself on the NFL landscape this year.

His 7.0 sacks were right there with, if not better than, the defensive tackles who played in the Pro Bowl this past January.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact -Johnathan Hankins is coming off a breakout campaign in 2014. After appearing in 11 games as a rookie, he took over for Linval Joseph, who left for the Vikings in free agency, and started all 16 games last season taking full advantage of his extended playing time. Hankins recorded 51 tackles and emerged as a pass rusher with seven sacks, finishing second on the team behind Jason Pierre-Paul.

If the former Ohio State standout can build off those numbers in 2015, he'll put himself in a strong position for a Pro Bowl invite. Two other candidates would be Prince Amukumara, who has improved each and every season since his rookie year in 2011 and Devon Kennard, coming off an impressive rookie campaign. But, Prince has struggled to stay healthy (he's only played in 16 games once in his four years in the league) and Kennard is learning a new defense for the second time in as many years and it still remains to be seen what type of a role he'll play in Steve Spagnuolo's scheme.

The most important stretch on the schedule is: PHI, DAL, NO, and TB beginning Week 6.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -I hesitate to label any four-game stretch more important than any other because all the games count in the final standings.

This four-game stretch, however, is the only one where there are two division games and four conference games, three of which are on the road. If the Giants could ever go 3-1 or 4-0 during those four games, they will be in great position for a playoff run.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - I know in football it's typically not about how you start; it's about how you finish. But over the last three seasons of missing the playoffs, the Giants haven't been in position to finish because of the way they started. In 2012, they began 2-2. In 2013, they lost their first six games. Last season, they lost the first two, marking the fourth-straight year of losing the opener. So if we're talking in four-game increments, I'm going with the first quarter of the season to get the ball rolling.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact -The old cliché in the NFL is that every game, every stretch of the season, is important and that's 100 percent true especially considering how the last three seasons have played out for the Giants. In 2012, they started strong only to struggle down the stretch. The following season, a slow start proved costly, and last season a mid-season skid came back to haunt them.

Based on those results, I'm hesitant to say any specific group of games is more important than the others, but considering this stretch includes four games against NFC opponents, including two division rivals, this has a little bit more substance. The easiest way to win your division is by beating your rivals, and tie-breakers usually come down to NFC games more so than AFC ones. Plus, this stretch has three road games. In each of the last three seasons, the Giants have posted a 3-5 record away from MetLife Stadium. Consistency on the road is a big key in making the postseason.

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A no-hitter is more impressive than a perfect passer rating.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -Depending on how a football game goes, the quarterback may not have to do a lot to win the game. Defensive touchdowns, special teams scores or a great running game could make a quarterback's job easy in any given week. A pitcher, however, always has to get 27 outs without allowing a hit, no matter what the score is. Therefore, a no-hitter is more impressive. I also give Dan Salomone a lot of credit for a creative question. For just a moment, I forgot he attended Ohio State.


DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - ** I was all set to say "fact" until I looked into it further. You get a couple no-hitters every season in the majors, but that's not the case with perfect passer ratings. There have been only 26 in the Super Bowl era.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact -In order to achieve a no-hitter the standard is the same across the board: no hits in 27 outs. When it comes to a perfect passer rating that standard varies. This is why I have to go with a no-hitter. For example, Robert Griffin III posted a perfect passer rating in 2012 when he went 14 of 15 for 200 yards and four touchdowns.

A year later, Nick Foles also accomplished that feat against the Raiders but he completed 22 of 28 passes for 406 yards and seven touchdowns. To show even more of a variance, Eli Manning finished with a perfect passer rating in 2009 against the Raiders without even playing in the second half. They're both rare but a quarterback has much more leeway than a pitcher does.

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