If history is an accurate guide, the Giants' rushing attack should thrive despite the loss of one of the team's most productive backs.
The Giants today placed Andre Brown on injured reserve with a designation to return.
The Giants -- who return to action next Monday night in Washington -- have traveled this road before. In 2007, Derrick Ward, the team's second-leading rusher, fractured his fibula while rushing for 154 yards and a touchdown in the season's 12th game, at Chicago. Ward was placed on injured reserve two days later, creating an opportunity for then-rookie Ahmad Bradshaw to become the primary backup to Brandon Jacobs. Bradshaw ran for 151 yards, including an 88-yard touchdown, at Buffalo in Week 16 and rushed for a team-high 208 yards in the four-game postseason that ended with a victory in Super Bowl XLII.
Bradshaw is now the Giants' No. 1 back. And with Brown out, they have another rookie to fill the void, first-round draft choice David Wilson. Given the circumstance, no one can better prepare Wilson for his increased role than Bradshaw.
"I told David that when I was a rookie, D-Ward broke his fibula and I had to step in and be a big part of our offense," said Bradshaw, who has team-high totals of 161 carries and 733 rushing yards. "That's what I expect from David and I told him just to get right for the following weeks to come."
Asked if Wilson is ready, Bradshaw said, "I think he can be. Once we get him going and get him learning a little more and different things in different areas, I think he'll be a great asset to our offense."
That seems to be the consensus on Wilson. Everyone believes he can do the job, but he has to prove it.
"It's his time," coach Tom Coughlin said. "The timing as far as where he's coming from couldn't be any better, I don't think. If he's been very vigilant, and paid attention to the way that people have been corrected in front of him, then he's going to give himself the best opportunity. It is a great opportunity for him and I think for our team as well, in terms of what could develop here in this stage of the season for David. It would've been a real plus for us to have all three of the backs, Andre included, going down the stretch here, because the contribution of Andre last night was very strong as well. I thought two of his runs were very close to going (for touchdowns). He was probably one swipe away on a draw and even on the play he was hurt on, it was a very good and impressive play. That having been said, David steps up and he's got to do it."
Although he's been the team's kickoff returner all season, Wilson has had a limited role at running back. He has 24 carries for 102 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown vs. Cleveland. Last night, he ran for 13 yards on six attempts.
"I was glad to get in when I was, but unfortunately Andre got hurt," Wilson said. "But before that it was planned for me to go in on the next play and so I went in and I saw him getting up slow and he was hurt. You stand there the whole game doing kickoff returns and then you stand there and you're cold, so that was the only thing being put out there, but I knew I was coming up so I was trying to warm up on the sidelines a bit, bounce around. When I got in there I just got after it and there's no regrets or disappointment in the time that I got yesterday. I was just glad to get out there and have fun and play football."
Bradshaw has seldom practiced in recent weeks, so Wilson could get the majority of the first-team reps when the Giants begin preparing for Washington Thursday.
Second-year fullback Henry Hynoski has worked closely this season with Wilson.
"Our prayers go out to Andre and he's done great things for us this year," Hynoski said. "But we have to move forward and we have to expect David Wilson to move up. … Now is the time where David has to really step up and turn it on and it's getting to that point in the season where you expect a lot more out of him."
Brown leaves big shoes to fill. He leads the Giants with eight rushing touchdowns and is their second-leading rusher with 385 yards.
Wilson is well aware that the man he will now split time with set the example of how to thrive in this situation five years ago.
"Like I've been saying all year, you just prepare," Wilson said. "Be prepared so when your chance comes, you'll be ready. That's what I've been doing. Completing the quizzes with Henry, going through practice, shadowing Andre and Ahmad at practice and making sure I'm watching them and paying attention when they're in the games and seeing how I would react in the situation they're in and all the things you can do to prepare and be ready so when it's your turn you can step up without missing a step. Andre played a big role in our offense, so with his absence somebody is going to have to definitely step up on the offensive side of the ball and the coaches told me that I'm the next guy, so I've been preparing and hopefully I'll be ready when they call my number."
*Coughlin said surgery is "an option" for Brown, though that wouldn't necessarily end his season. He was asked why the team used the I.R. with a designation to return for a player with a fractured leg.
"I think it's going to provide Andre with great incentive and we want that experience for him," Coughlin said. "He was very disappointed last night, let's put it that way, frustrated. He's had some seasons end in this way before and I think this is a way to, perhaps, motivate, inspire him, give him great purpose and hopefully that will help."
*The Giants will investigate adding a running back, because they have only two on the roster.
"That would be about as thin as you could make it," Coughlin said. "We'll have to look at that for the next couple days."
*Kenny Phillips aggravated his knee injury, but Coughlin was uncertain about the safety's availability for the Redskins game and beyond. Phillips said after the game he could have continued had the score been closer.
"I don't know what to expect right now," Coughlin said.
*The Giants are evaluating the extent of David Diehl's burner.
"I'm not going to play down these things, these very painful, if you will, type of injuries," Coughlin said. "But I hope he can play through it."
*The Giants waived cornerback Michael Coe from injured reserve. Coe was placed on I.R. on November 10 with a leg injury. He is free to sign with any other team.