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Giants ground game gives team more options on offense

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With Eli and Odell and Tony and Dez, viewers might overlook Rashad, Andre, Shane and Orleans.


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"Sunday Night Football" will hype the aerial attacks of the Giants and Cowboys amid the fireworks of a season opener at AT&T Stadium. And rightfully so. In their two meetings last season, Eli Manning threw for 586 yards and six touchdowns, four of which were snatched by Odell Beckham Jr. Tony Romo went for 554 yards and seven scores, two of which were caught by Dez Bryant.

However, the Giants' offseason concerns were more grounded. The unit managed just 3.6 yards per carry in 2014, third-worst in the NFL.

While bolstering their offensive line, the Giants brought in running back Shane Vereen and also kept a fourth in Orleans Darkwa, who led the Giants in the preseason with 131 yards and a touchdown on 30 rushing attempts. Last year, the Giants only carried three running backs when the 53-man roster was set. Additionally, fullback Nikita Whitlock is a new member of the backfield after replacing Henry Hynoski.  
The new front comes together on Sunday night.

"This is the first time we get to get out and play live football," Rashad Jennings said after Thursday's practice. "This game counts twice. It's in the division. It's the first game. We want to set the tempo."

Setting as well as carrying that tempo throughout the season is the goal for Jennings, who missed five games last season with injuries. In two others, he carried the ball just a total of three times as Williams went on to lead the team in rushing as a rookie.
With Jennings back healthy, McAdoo has what every coordinator wants: options.

"That's a part of the reason I'm excited about the big guys up front," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said. "Rashad's healthy and running well, and Andre [has] another year his belt, running a variety of schemes that we like to do -- he's improved there with his reads. Adding Shane to the mix and Orleans as well, I feel like we'll be more consistent there and have a chance to be a pretty good running team."

How the carries will be split, though, remains to be seen.

"We like to spread the ball around," McAdoo added. "And we're going to challenge all of our backs to be complete players. We'll start there."
Meanwhile, with the season opener three days away, here's what else we learned on Thursday at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center:

1. Owa didn't practice; Beason plans to play Sunday.

Defensive end Owa Odighizuwa was added to the injury report today with a foot issue and did not practice along with linebacker Jon Beason (knee) and wide receiver Victor Cruz (calf). Meanwhile, linebacker Jonathan Casillas (neck) and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (hamstring) participated fully after being limited on Wednesday.

"Wednesday was basically to gauge where I was full speed and see how I felt," Beason said. "Obviously we were in pads, tackling, and changing directions. Felt pretty good.  It's just, see how it feels the next day, and so it's a little sore, so the smartest thing to do is to take a day off and see how it feels tomorrow."

On playing Sunday, Beason added, "That's the plan. That's the plan. Trust me, I don't want to miss Dallas, Sunday Night Football, the opener, so for me personally, it means everything."

2. Captains vote coming soon.

Coach Tom Coughlin said the captains vote should be coming soon. In the last few years, the Giants have gone with five -- two offense, two defense, and one special teams. There will be at least one new captain this year after the team parted ways with safety Antrel Rolle over the offseason.

"There are different people, there are different people that have done it from day one," Coughlin said of the leadership on defense. "You've had Jon Beason, you've had Cullen Jenkins. In the secondary, some of the corners have come in with positive comments from time to time. So there's different guys that have stepped up. [Johnathan] Hankins has been in that position. So different people."

A look at the Giants captains from 2007 to 2016

3. Odell ready to make Victor proud again.

Coughlin isn't ruling anything out when it comes to Cruz in Week 1, but if he can't go, the wide receivers will be ready. Cruz missed the last 10 games of the 2014 season after suffering a knee injury.

"They're going to move guys around," Beckham said. "That's what we've practiced, just moving guys around. Everybody has to know every position. Wherever they move us is exactly where we're going to be at. Yeah, of course, we all want Vic to be out there playing. It's hard when this is the one thing that you love. Not that it's taken away from you, but you can't be out there with your team, and I know he wants to be out there. All we can do is go out there and make him proud. Play to the best of our ability, and when he's back with us and back to going, I'm definitely looking forward to it and excited."

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