Back in February at the NFL Scouting Combine, where the Giants looked at hundreds of prospects, Saquon Barkley being one of them, new head coach Pat Shurmur naturally was asked about running backs. He said he has a high opinion of what the positions means to an offense, but also that “it takes a village.”
Well, the Giants now have one of the nicest houses on the block.
They eventually drafted what many considered the best prospect to come along in a generation, and Barkley joined a backfield that already included veteran Jonathan Stewart, the former Panther who signed in March, and Wayne Gallman, a 2017 fourth-round draft choice by the previous regime. As a rookie, Gallman finished second on the team in rushing behind Orleans Darkwa, who remains a free agent.
The Clemson product doesn’t have the luxury of returning to the same offense like most second-year players do, but he still carried over plenty of lessons from last season.
“I think I’m pretty far [from where I was],” Gallman said. “We went through a lot last year, not the season we wanted to have, but going through that teaches you things you wouldn’t have learned in a good season.”
Gallman said the biggest thing he learned was “just being a professional.” That includes knowing the playbook, which is new under Shurmur, front and back.
“I’d say it was kind of hard at first, but from then on, it’s been pretty easy,” Gallman said as the Giants gear up for next week’s mandatory minicamp before breaking until training camp in late July. “They haven’t made it hard on us. They want us to learn it in a way that it can be easy for us.”
That went along with what Vikings running back and offseason training partner Dalvin Cook told him when Shurmur, Minnesota’s former offensive coordinator, took over as head coach of the Giants.
“He told me already that it’s going to be hard at first, but after you get along into it, you’ll get it,” Gallman said of Cook. “So I’m pretty much getting it now.”
As offensive coordinator for the 13-3 Vikings last season, Shurmur started with the rookie Cook in the backfield. The second-round pick (41st overall) flew out of the gates, racking up 354 rushing yards to go along with 11 receptions for 90 yards in his first four games in the NFL. However, his season ended there due to a torn ACL. Latavius Murray, his primary backup, took over the bulk of the workload while Jerick McKinnon also contributed. The NFC North champions finished seventh in the league in rushing, averaging 122.3 yards per game.
“The position, in general, I think certainly I have a high opinion of what a running back brings to your offense,” Shurmur said at the combine. “But I also have a very high opinion that that guy has to be able to run the ball, he has to be able to pass protect, and he has to be able to catch. That’s one of the things that we’ve got to get better at is catching the football. I think that the running back is a huge weapon in the passing game. Whether you just look down the field and you check it down or you dedicate throws to the runner.”
He added: “And as the play caller, you can’t be worried about what plays you’re calling because, oh, this guy can’t catch. Or, oh, this guy can only run the ball. Because, you know, the defense knows all that, too. So you’ve got to have a guy, in my opinion, at running back that’s a multi-dimensional guy. Really, I’ve got no use for any offensive skill player that can’t catch, and the running back is no different.”
Through 10 organized team activities (OTAs), that much has been made clear.
“Anything to get that ball, man,” said Gallman, who was fifth on the team last season with 34 receptions for 193 yards and a touchdown. “We also want to show our versatility and show that we can do other things than just run the ball. … “We have too many weapons to use [on offense]. It’s going to be very unique to see how this all comes down in training camp, when the season starts. So I’m pretty excited for it.”