EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Wayne Gallman began last week knowing he would have a heavy workload.
With top draft choice and first-team running back Saquon Barkley sidelined with a hamstring strain, and the Giants monitoring the workload of 11-year veteran Jonathan Stewart, Gallman did much of the ball-carrying in the Giants' joint practices with the Detroit Lions. He was pleased for the opportunity because like most backs, Gallman will take any carry he can get, and because it was a chance to showcase his talents for coach Pat Shurmur and his staff.
Gallman impressed not only in the workouts, but in the Giants' 30-17 defeat of the Lions in a preseason game last night. He had just five rushing attempts, but one of them was an 11-yard touchdown. And the first of his two catches was an eight-yard touchdown for the team's initial score.
So while it seems Gallman stood tall when it counted, he insists he put no added pressure on himself to perform well.
"(I had the) same mindset I always have," he said. "Honestly, go in and when your name is called put in work."
That was enough to get Shurmur's attention.
"The whole camp, I actually saw it in the spring, I saw improvement from him," Shurmur said. "When you see a young man who is fighting to be good have success in a game, it doesn't matter that it's a preseason game, when you cross the goal line, there's that feeling you get and he got a chance to do it twice."
Gallman ran for 34 touchdowns in three seasons at Clemson, but his score in Detroit was his first rushing the ball in the Giants uniform. He did not run for a touchdown in the 2017 preseason, nor on any of his 111 carries in his rookie season. And he likely would not have run for a score last night had Jalen Simmons not suffered a concussion late in the third quarter. When Simmons went down, Gallman returned to the game.
"I felt like I kind of stole one," said Gallman, who checked on Simmons immediately after the game. "But a touchdown is a touchdown and I'm glad we got the win."
Gallman was a solid reserve after being selected on the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He rushed for 476 yards and caught 34 passes in 13 games. This season, he figures to again play a backup role, but considers himself an improved player.
"I feel way more comfortable," he said. "We went through a lot last year, so I know that I learned a lot. From what I learned going into this year I really worked on it in the offseason, pretty much everything from the passing game to the running game to whatever I need to work on in terms of confidence. It's showing. I'm having fun out there; I'm not so much worried about knowing the play, because I already know it. Just out there letting it loose."
Gallman will likely have another busy week leading up to the annual preseason game vs, the Jets on Friday night. It's unclear if Barkley will practice, but if he does, the Giants certainly won't overwork him. Stewart remains on a veteran pitch count, and Simmons is in the NFL concussion protocol. That leaves Gallman and rookie free agent Rob Martin as the team's only unrestricted backs.
"We will just manage it (the backfield situation)," Shurmur said. "I think we have ways we can get into different personnel groupings. We have quite a few (running backs) and we will get what we can out of them. We have a fullback in Shane Smith that can take some ones running back work. We'll make it work. Again, that's part of adjusting, we try to adjust in game. We weren't running the ball as well as I wanted to early and then we made some adjustments and found a way to do it later. It's just like your practice plans, too. I think what's important is you make adjustments to them. I have a certain amount of work I think we need to get done and certain things we want to practice, but if you have less of this player and more of another in terms of groups, you just feature those guys in practice."
*Eli Manning is entrenched as the starting quarterback, but last night in Detroit, his top two backups demonstrated skills the 15-year veteran has seldom displayed in his career. Davis Webb picked up a first down on a one-yard, fourth-down quarterback sneak on the final play of the opening quarter. Manning long ago stopped sneaking the ball. And rookie Kyle Lauletta scored on a 10-yard scramble, highlighted by some athletic moves, in the third quarter.
"That was good, pretty nifty the way he did that," Shurmur said. "Just like we drew it up. We drew it up for like five guys to be standing there waiting for him and have him try to make them miss. That's an attempt at humor, by the way."
*Shurmur clearly disagreed with the officials' decision to penalize linebacker Mark Herzlich 15 yards in the second quarter for lowering his head to make initial contact. The infraction negated a 10-yard sack by rookie Lorenzo Carter. Replays suggested that Herzlich was not guilty as charged. But instead of lashing out, the coach chose to bite is tongue.
"I have a very strong opinion of that play," Shurmur said. "We're going to send that play in to get evaluated and we'll see what they say - and what they do tell me, I won't tell you. I don't think it's necessary to get fined in the preseason. Here's the thing – we want to teach a physical, safe game played by the rules and things happen fast in games, and we all certainly see things differently in real speed. So sometimes it gets left to interpretation when you replay it in HD very slowly, so we'll just see. Part of the preseason is everyone getting used to the new rule, not only how to play the game but how to officiate it. And I'm hopeful I'm going to get an answer on that play."
*The Giants have had zero turnovers in their first two preseason games.
"I've always believed if you take care of the ball and on defense, if you take it away from them, that's the obvious, and then if one of those things happens to you and you're on the bad side of it, you've got to keep them from scoring or if you get a turnover, you need to score," Shurmur said. "That's the mindset, and it's kind of a totality of the things I've learned over the years."
The four Giants' quarterbacks have not thrown an interception in 73 pass attempts.
"Our big focus is always about getting completions, obviously," Shurmur said. "And also within that, being able to drive the ball down the field and get big plays. Every once in a while an interception will happen, but we are always going to coach for a high completion percentage and do the best we can to get the ball in our playmakers' hands."
*In addition to Simmons, second-year linebacker Calvin Munson is in the NFL concussion protocol.
*The Giants' game captains last night were defensive backs Landon Collins and Michael Thomas, and center Jon Halapio.