EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The last Giants rookie to lead the team in rushing over a full season was Joe Montgomery in 1999 (with all of 348 yards). Andre Williams has an excellent opportunity to be the next.
Williams will again start and be the Giants' primary back when the team takes on the St. Louis Rams Sunday in the Edward Jones Dome. Rashad Jennings, who is listed as the No. 1 running back on the depth chart, will not play because of the sprained ankle he suffered at Jacksonville three weeks ago. It will be the fifth game Jennings will miss this season. The last two weeks, he was limited to a total of three carries.
Jennings still leads the team with 606 rushing yards. But Williams is close behind him with 568. In his five starts, Williams has averaged 69.4 yards, including a 131-yard outing in a victory at Tennessee. If he matches that total in St. Louis, he will vault over Jennings.
Williams, the Giants' fourth-round draft choice this year, said today he has become increasingly at ease as the season has progressed.
"There's a transition that you've got to go through from the college to the pro level," he said. "You're not playing on talent alone, no matter how much talent you do possess. You do have to get comfortable, things have got to slow down for you, and I just had to learn how to use my ability within the waves of the offense."
Williams leads the Giants in both rushing attempts (176, or 19 more than Jennings) and rushing touchdowns (six). He has also improved as a receiver (15 catches, which are 15 more than he had as a senior at Boston College) and pass protector.
"I think my goal as a runner at this level is to be well-rounded, to be an every-down back," Williams said. "I think I have definitely made strides towards that this year. Like I said, I've had the opportunity to get on the field and play more than usual. I'm not where I need to be, but I'm going to continue to work."
"He has done a nice job," coach Tom Coughlin said. "He's hung in there, he's battled, and he's learned very well. We have talked about (the protection) a couple times this week. He has done a good job with that."
- KICKER JOSH BROWN RETURNS TO ST. LOUIS, TALKS IMPACT OF DOME
For the second season in a row, the Giants will play their Week 16 game in a dome, and that's just fine with Josh Brown. Last year in Detroit, his 45-yard field goal in overtime provided the deciding points in the Giants' a 23-20 victory over the Lions. Now he'll again get to kick in pristine conditions at a time of year when many kickers must deal with cold, wind and precipitation.
"Anytime you can escape the elements, you're at an advantage," Brown said. "We'll see what comes this week. Hopefully, we have another shot (at kicking a game-winner)."
Brown played for the Rams from 2008-11 but insists he harbors no extra incentive returning to St. Louis for the first time as a visiting player. His contract was terminated by the Rams on April 30, 2012.
"I have no animosity toward anybody there," Brown said. "The coaches that I was under aren't there. It wasn't any of their doing. The administrative people that I was close to then, I'm still close to now, on a personal note. There literally is nothing like that for me. That was really just a great place for my family and we have nothing but good memories of it."
Except for the Rams' record, which during those four years was 12-52, including seasons in which they twice won two games and another (2009) when they finished with a single victory.
"That was tough to handle, because I had never been in that situation before," Brown said. "We won typically all the time at Nebraska. We won a ton in Seattle (where he played his first five NFL seasons). To handle that kind of adversity, I wasn't mature enough to even understand how to do that and how to tolerate it and react to it and process it. How do you turn it and make it into a positive? How do you build something out of nothing? I didn't know how to do that. That was one of the really hard things that I had to deal with there."
Brown has found a home with the Giants. Last year, he set a franchise record by making 17 consecutive field goal attempts. This season, he has made 17 of 18 tries, missing only a 43-yarder at Jacksonville.
"I'm very pleased with my year," Brown said. "More than anything, I'm just trying to work each day as its own entity. It's not, 'Oh, I was great yesterday. I want to be great today.' I want to be great every day. You come in every day and I have my routines as far as warming up and being consistent with that and resting. I try to come in and continue to get better on ball striking, continue to get better in breaking bad habits and making winning kicks each day at practice. Just like Coach (Mike) Holmgren told me back in 2004, every day is a game for me. The idea is to be perfect every day, so the game is just like practice and practice is just like the game."
- Linebacker Jameel McClain practiced fully today and is listed probable for the game.
- The Rams' injury list is also insignificant, with three players listed as probable: guard Davin Joseph and center Scott Wells, who are included for non-jury related reasons, and defensive end Chris Long (ankle), who did not practice today.
- The Giants trail in the regular-season series with the Rams, 25-14, but have won the last five meetings between the teams, in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2011, a streak that immediately followed five consecutive St. Louis victories in the series. The teams last met on Sept. 19, 2011, a 28-16 Giants victory on a Monday night in MetLife Stadium. They last faced each other in St. Louis on Sept. 14, 2008, when the Giants won, 41-13. Tom Coughlin and Rams coach Jeff Fisher have faced each other in 18 regular-season games, the second-highest number of meetings between two active coaches. Fisher leads the series, 11-7.
Keep your eyes on these 5 players during the game vs. the Rams