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Rushing attack looks for improvement

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That the Giants are usually one of the NFL's best rushing teams is not just an oft-repeated refrain, it is a fact supported by statistics.

In the previous six seasons (2005-10), the Giants finished ranked no lower than seventh in the league in rushing yards five times. In 2009, they were 17th but still averaged 114.8 yards a game. Their rushing average for those six seasons was 136.2 yards.

  kneeldowns at the end of a half or game).

"We just need to get it going, period," guard Chris Snee said. "I am tired of seeing 80 yards a game average and three yards a carry, so it has to be fixed."

Their task gets no easier this week. The 3-1 Giants will host the Seattle Seahawks, who are 1-3 but allow 105.0 rushing yards a game (14th in the league) and a stingy 3.2 yards per carry (third).

"It is a good challenge for our team," Coach Tom Coughlin said. "We have to display the ability to run the ball in order to maintain our balance and we didn't run it very well the other day (just 54 yards and 2.3 yards per attempt in a victory at Arizona). We have a prideful group in the room and hopefully that will be a major, major focus for us."

It always is, yet the Giants have not attained their standard level of success. They have the same players running the ball. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs last year averaged 128.6 yards game and 4.9 yards per carry. The numbers this season are 86 yards a game and 3.7 yards a carry. The Giants have two new starting linemen in David Baas and Will Beatty and they shifted David Diehl from tackle to guard. The Giants have a new tight end in second-year pro Jake Ballard and a new fullback in rookie Henry Hynoski. But even with all those changes, everyone agrees the running game should remain productive.

"We are not going to say that's the reason why the run game isn't going," Snee said. "It's just we are not getting it going, so it's on us."

So what, exactly, has happened?

"We definitely have not run the ball as well as we would have liked to have run it," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "I think as we go along we'll get better at it. I think part of it is just the coordination and the cohesion  of the guys up front – the better deepening of understanding of some of our new guys, whether it's the tight end or center, the moving of the tackle to guard and the new tackle, that type of thing. It's also people. Certain formations, certain personnel groupings are just loaded up trying to stop the run, which has given us a chance to throw the ball well. As long as we continue to do that, I think things will change. It's amazing how those things work hand in hand. But I think the passing game will help to set up the running game. You always hear just the opposite, but the reverse can be true, too."

Snee isn't buying that the new line configuration is even partly responsible for the low rushing totals.

"You can't use that as an excuse anymore," Snee said. "We've played four games now and that's more than enough time to get things going and we just haven't done it yet. Hopefully, it starts this week."

The running backs would certainly like to break out. Bradshaw's best game was at Philadelphia, where he ran for 86 yards and averaged 5.5 yards a carry. Jacobs' season high is 50 yards vs. St. Louis. He has not practiced this week because of a swollen knee.

"We haven't had the right touches and that is just the way the game goes," Bradshaw said. "We have had to open up our passing game with a lot of opponents and I think the running game is fine where it is at. It will be great once we get the amount of touches we expect in later games."

"It is always a bunch of little things in the running game," Jacobs said. "If this guy would have done this or that and if we would have taken a different cut and everybody plays freeze football but unfortunately you can't freeze it when you are out on the field. We are not happy and this team or organization is not happy with where we are rushing. We have to get it better."

In 2010, the Giants had one of their best rushing games in Seattle, where they ran for 197 yards on a season-high 47 attempts. Jacobs ran for 78 yards, Bradshaw had 57 and D.J. Ware chipped in with 66. Of course, the Giants had plenty of opportunities to run, since they led 21-0 after one quarter, 35-0 at halftime and 41-0 before the Seahawks scored their only touchdown.

The Seattle team that will invade MetLife Stadium on Sunday has five new defensive starters and is much-improved. So if the Giants' ground game sputters early, Gilbride might have to decide how long he keeps handing off the ball in an attempt to establish a rhythm.

"That's one that you always deal with, how long do you stay with something?" Gilbride said. "You'd like to get into that kind of rhythm where you say, 'Okay, now we're achieving what we'd like,' which is control of the line of scrimmage. But if you're not careful, the game slips away from you when now all of a sudden you've lost a chance to win. I think you're balancing, first and foremost, doing whatever enables you or puts you in the best position to win the game. But usually the ability to (pass and run) is what accomplishes that. So you're kind of straddling the fence. You want to do whatever you can to win the game, but usually being able to run the ball contributes to that.

"There are certainly teams, and we've been on occasion that way too, where you're throwing the ball because of your success doing that. I think in the long run, particularly up here, when you get into the winter and everything else, if you can't run, it usually makes life more difficult. I don't think it's the end-all-be-all, but it certainly gives you a better chance to be consistent and to overcome any of the conditions that sometimes present themselves here."

The forecast Sunday is for bright sun and temperatures in the mid-80s, perfect conditions for an offense to try to do anything it pleases on the field. The Giants would like to take advantage of the nice weather and run the ball.

"You just have to keep at it," Coughlin said. "The attitude has to be to keep at it. There are a few things you can do, but you have to stay at it."

So that's what the Giants will do.

*Wide receiver Mario Manningham had one catch for 10 against the Cardinals. He was replaced at times by Victor Cruz. Manningham seemed to be frustrated and received a pep talk late in the game.

So how would Gilbride assess Manningham's performance?

"That was really his best game," Gilbride said. "He had nothing to show for it production-wise, but he ran a lot of good routes, got himself open. Just because of the coverage or what have you, the ball went the other way. But really that was his best game."

Moments later, Gilbride was asked another question about Manningham.

"This was his best game by far," Gilbride reiterated. "He had a good game. He was wide open four or five shots down the second half of the game, but the reads took the quarterback in the other direction."

How about replacing Manningham at times with Cruz?

"Just really seeing some things that we wanted to see Victor do, that we thought Victor would do more effectively," Gilbride said. "We'll always do that. We'll move people around. We'll play Manningham in a certain spot. We'll put in Victor at certain spots. We'll have Hakeem (Nicks) do different things. It's really just taking advantage of the ability level of that guy for that particular play."

*Defensive end Justin Tuck (neck/groin) returned to practice on a limited basis. He wore "tighter" shoulder pads and a re-designed facemask.

"We are just trying to give people not as much surface to be able to grab my facemask," said Tuck, who did not play against the Cardinals. "(Opposing teams) did it before the neck, but it is more amplified now."

Tuck said he is "not 100 percent" and his availability for the Seattle game likely won't be determined until game day.

The Giants have two more games until their bye and Tuck said he has considered sitting out until after the off week.

"I would rather be healthy now, but there is no guarantee that if I sit out until the bye week, I will be healthy the whole season," he said. "You just have to go on what you are feeling that day and that is why they say it is day-to-day."

*In addition to Jacobs, Baas (neck) and cornerback Prince Amukamara (foot) did not practice.

"I feel pretty good today," Jacobs said. "I didn't do much. I am just waiting for the time when they unleash me and let me do a little running and stuff like that, but I feel good."

Asked how he feels, Baas said, "It is just something you have to watch and listen to the doctors because they know best. I am just going day-to-day and plan on being ready."

*Linebacker Michael Boley (knee) joined Tuck in returning to practice on a limited basis. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora (knee) and defensive tackle Rocky Bernard (ribs) were also limited.

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