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Rashad Jennings expected to return to boost run game

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants' rushing attack has been bogged down for the last month, but it could get a big lift this week.

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Rashad Jennings, still the team's leading rusher despite missing the last four games with a knee injury, could return for the home game Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

"I think he will, I'm hoping that he will," coach Tom Coughlin said today. "He did have a good week of practice last week for what we asked him to do.  He had a weekend to continue to rehab and strengthen, so he has worked hard at that. I am going to say that we certainly do expect that he will be ready at the end of this week. But who knows? I can't tell you 100 percent, but I think he will, and if he is ready, then obviously he will have a big share of the load."

In the five games in which Jennings played, the Giants averaged 121.2 yards on the ground, despite rushing for a season-low total of 53 yards in the opener in Detroit. But he suffered an MCL sprain against Atlanta on Oct. 5, and in the four full games since, the Giants have averaged 83 rushing yards a game. In Seattle, they ran for only 54 yards.

Rookie Andre Williams replaced Jennings, and while he has rushed for four touchdowns, his season totals are 335 yards on 114 carries, a 2.9-yard average.

Jennings is the perfect candidate to re-energize the ground game. His 396 rushing yards are 61 more than Williams has – on 23 fewer carries. Jennings, signed as a free agent on March 12, was one of the Giants' most productive players early in the season. His 34 carries and 176 yards in a victory over Houston on Sept. 21 are still the high totals in the NFL this season.

The Giants believe he can provide a similar lift if he returns this week.

"Rashad is a tremendous player and a guy we brought in this offseason to be the starting running back," quarterback Eli Manning said. "He was playing well for us early in the year. He runs the ball well. (He) has a great feel and does a good job in protection. (He) catches the ball well out of the backfield on screens and on pass plays. I think Andre has done a heck of a job filling in and running hard, but it would be good to have that 1-2 punch."

Barring a setback, the Giants should be able to hit the 49ers with that on Sunday.

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