*Giants Coach Ben McAdoo spoke with the Media at the NFL Combine: *
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The clues seem to point to one conclusion, but Ben McAdoo was not prepared today to offer definitive answers to the Giants' running back questions.
The team recently released Rashad Jennings, the team's leading rusher each of the last two seasons. Second on the list last season was Paul Perkins, a fifth-round draft choice last year who finished his rookie season with 112 rushing attempts. Perkins showed promise – he had personal season-high rushing totals in each of the last five regular-season games – but the Giants were 29th in the NFL with just 88.3 rushing yards per game (and 30th with 3.5 yards a carry).
All of which begs the question: will the Giants bring in a proven veteran running back to boost their ground game? McAdoo, speaking to reporters at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, was customarily non-committal.
"If it fits and if it is clean," McAdoo said when asked if the Giants need another running back. "Paul is a guy that we have confidence in. He missed all offseason last year because of the rules that are in place with rookies and he came into training camp and really had to catch up in a hurry. He had some success with special teams early and ended up being a nice ball carrier for us and grew in protection, as well. But he needs to come back, he needs to get better and he can get better, and I know that he is working to get better right now."
Perkins flashed his potential at different times in the Giants' 11-5 season. At Minnesota, he caught his first career pass, a short toss from Eli Manning, and turned it into a 67-yard gain. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Perkins is the first Giants player since the 1970 merger whose initial career reception was at least 67 yards long. He rushed for 102 yards in the season finale in Washington, the only 100-yard performance by a Giants back in 2016. But he did not score a touchdown, and McAdoo must decide if he wants to entrust Perkins with the bulk of the team's carries in 2017.
"Paul is a lot like the rest of the rookies," McAdoo said. "I think it is important when these rookies get back to New York that they understand that they don't have everything figured out, that we need to keep our thumb on those guys and they need to grow and they need to get better. We need to make gains; our rookie class needs to make gains. We have a nice class there and Paul is one of those players, but he needs to get better like the rest of them. Even if it is marginally in each area of his game, but we need to make gains there."
One player the NFL media and public have linked to the Giants is Adrian Peterson, the seven-time Pro Bowler and 2012 NFL Most Valuable Player with Minnesota, who will be a free agent next week. But Peterson will turn 32 on March 21, which, coincidentally, makes him five days older than Jennings.
Coach, what about Peterson?
"We will go take a look at him, we will evaluate him," McAdoo said. "We will get a grade on anyone that is available, and we will make those decisions in terms of what is best for the Giants moving forward."
Another much-scrutinized player is Ereck Flowers, the 2015 first-round draft choice who started all but one game at left tackle in his first two seasons with the Giants. At his season-ending news conference, general manager Jerry Reese said of Flowers, "it is time for him to show us the fruits of being a first round draft pick." Reese also said the team "will evaluate" whether Flowers should change positions.
But when asked about the young lineman today, McAdoo refused to pick on Flowers.
"I have a ton of confidence in Ereck," McAdoo said. "He is a guy that is all in. He is working at it. You can make a case that he could be here right now preparing to go out there and run in the combine. He is a young player that has a lot of room to grow and we expect him to grow, and I have confidence that he is going to grow. Where he ends up is where he ends up. Right now, he is playing left tackle like he has always played for us and we will go from there."
NFL.com ranked the Top 101 free agents of 2017.
McAdoo spoke about several other subjects during his news conference:
• On defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, whom the Giants yesterday franchised for the second time in three years:
"It is great to have JPP around," McAdoo said. "We think highly of him. Obviously, that is the business part of the equation and I try to stay out of that as much as I can. But Jason is a great part of the team, someone who made some progress last year, and it will be good to have him back."
• On whether he will continue to line up a tight end in the backfield in lieu of a fullback:
"It just really depends on how things shake out," McAdoo said. "Whether it is the free agent market or the draft class, it depends on what you have to choose from. The guys on your roster – going into the season we had two players (Will Johnson and Nikita Whitlock) that we felt pretty good about playing fullback for us and neither of them stayed healthy. That was part of it. For one reason or another, they were not a part of the team. So we had to go in another direction and we had to use what we had. We will continue to evaluate and if we feel that there is someone out there that can help us, then we will use them."
• On whether he has a "clearer picture" why the offense wasn't as productive in 2016 as it was the previous season.
"I will say this, right now we are in the middle of (evaluating) third down," McAdoo said. "We are not finished with third down yet as far as our scheme evaluation. But we all know that turning the ball over 27 times isn't acceptable. We are fortunate to have the wins that we had turning the ball over the way that we turned the ball over, so we can't turn the ball over that way. We need to handle the ball better, so we need to catch it better than we have caught it and we need to handle it in the pocket better. We can't have it come out. Way too many fumbles - 16 interceptions and 11 fumbles, way too many fumbles."
• On if he will continue to call the offensive plays:
"You can keep asking the question and I enjoy when you ask the question," McAdoo said, "but I am not going to answer that question."