EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants today signed an intriguing candidate to compete for the backup running back job behind reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Saquon Barkley.
Rod Smith, who spent most of the previous four seasons with NFC East rival Dallas, scored two touchdowns in a game against the Giants in 2017. He joins a backfield that is led by Barkley and includes former draft choices Wayne Gallman and Paul Perkins, 2018 acquisition Eli Penny, and undrafted free agents Robert Martin and Jon Hilliman.
Smith, 6-3 and 235 pounds, has played in 49 regular-season games – 48 of them for the Cowboys, who acquired him off waivers in 2015 after he was released by the Seattle Seahawks. He started one game in each of the previous two seasons. His career totals include 101 rushing attempts for 364 yards (3.6-yard avg.) and five touchdowns with a long run of 45 yards, and 30 receptions for 272 yards and one touchdown – an 81-yarder vs. the Giants in MetLife Stadium on Dec. 10, 2017.
Last year, Smith played in all 16 games for the first time in his four NFL seasons. He started the season finale against the Giants when the Cowboys rested NFL rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott. He ran 12 times for 35 yards, including a one-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, and caught two passes for 14 yards. His season totals included 44 carries for 127 yards, and nine catches for 60 yards. Smith also played in both of Dallas' postseason games and gained one yard on his only rushing attempt.
Smith's most productive season was in 2017. He finished with career-high totals of 55 carries, 232 yards and four touchdowns, plus 19 catches for 202 yards. Smith's best game was the 30-10 victory against the Giants. He scored Dallas' final two touchdowns on a 15-yard run and the 81-yard reception, and he ran for 47 yards on six carries and had team and career-high totals of five catches for 113 yards.
In five career games against the Giants, Smith has 82 rushing yards on 18 carries (4.6-yard avg.) and two touchdowns, and seven receptions for 127 yards.
Smith entered the NFL in 2015 out of Ohio State as a rookie free agent with the Seahawks. After an early-season stint on the practice squad, Smith made his NFL debut on Oct. 11 at Cincinnati. He gained five yards on two carries and was cut two days later. Dallas claimed him and he played in 10 games that season and seven the following year without ever carrying the ball. Smith did have a four-yard reception in 2016. The Cowboys began integrating him in the offense in 2017.
Barkley, the second overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, set Giants rookie records last season with 1,307 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns, and he tied another mark with 91 receptions.
Behind him, the Giants are looking to strengthen their depth. Gallman, who is entering his third season, rushed for 176 yards on 51 carries and caught 14 passes last year. Perkins missed the entire 2018 season after suffering a torn pectoral muscle in an individual workout in the spring. A fifth-round draft choice in 2016, he rushed for 546 yards and had 23 receptions in his first two years. Penny was signed off the Arizona Cardinals' practice squad last Sept. 19 and played in 14 games with three starts for the Giants. He had seven carries for 25 yards and eight catches for 50 yards, plus two special teams tackles.
Martin spent the entire 2018 season on the Giants' practice squad. Hilliman, who is also a Rutgers product, was signed last week.