The New York Giants won the Super Bowl last season despite having a very un-Tom Coughlin-like rushing attack. It was, in fact, the worst in the NFL during the regular season with an average of only 89.2 yards per game.
There are legitimate explanations. Injuries to a revamped offensive line. Foot problems that limited Ahmad Bradshaw to 12 regular-season games. The aging of Brandon Jacobs, and his seeming inability to consistently run with authority.
The 2012 season, which begins when players report to training camp at UAlbany on July 26, brings change -- and lots of competition to the Giants' backfield. Jacobs is gone to the San Francisco 49ers, David Wilson was drafted in the first round to take his place, and there are a multitude of players behind them fighting for spots on the 53-man roster and in the playing rotation. It breaks down something like this:
Guaranteed Roster Spots: Bradshaw, Wilson, fullback Henry Hynoski
Fighting For Roster Spots: DJ Ware, Da'Rel Scott, Andre Brown, Joe Martinek
First and foremost the Giants need Bradshaw and his troublesome feet to remain healthy. He gained 1,235 yards rushing in 2010, his first as the starting running back, but only 659 last season. His 3.9 yards per carry in 2011 was the first time he averaged less than 4.5 yards per carry in his six-year career. Bradshaw is also a receiving threat, having caught 81 passes the past two seasons, and one of the best pass-blocking backs in the NFL.
Wilson, 5-foot-9, 205 pounds, was taken by the Giants with the final pick of the first round following a stellar career at Virginia Tech. Wilson provides the Giants with a colorful, energetic personality, as shown by his recent interview with SB Nation YouTube:
David Wilson Interview - Giants Rookie RB (via sbnnfl)
The Giants are hoping that Wilson energizes their running game. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride is undoubtedly excited by Wilson's potential.
"I don’t know if we have had a guy as explosive, regardless of the position, here," Gilbride said. "It looks like there is something that can give you some excitement. I don’t know if we have had that kind of guy. Tiki was a tremendous all-around back. Brandon gave you a certain (style), Ahmad gives the toughness. But this guy has the kind of explosion that I’m not sure how many guys in the league have."
Wilson will be given every opportunity to earn the chance to split time with Bradshaw. Behind those two, however, it is anyone's guess as to how the roster will be shaped -- or any leftover playing time will be divided.
Henry Hynoski returns for his second season at fullback. While his job is to be a battering ram for the runners behind him, Hynoski might see his opportunities to touch the ball increase this season.
Ware, Scott, Brown and Martinek -- an undrafted free agent from Rutgers -- are likely battling for two remaining roster spots. They may also be fighting for specfic roles, such as third-down or short-yardagae back.
Ware, a five-year veteran, carried the ball 46 times for 163 yards (3.5 yards per carry) and caught 27 passes last season. That was the most extensive duty of his career.
Scott, the speedy seventh-round pick from the University of Maryland, will look for an opportunity to earn a roster spot and playing time as a pass catcher and kick returner. Brown, a 2009 fourth-round pick who has never made an impact and spent last season on the practice squad, is up to 240 pounds and looks to become a short-yardage specialist. Martinek hopes the fact that he can play both running back and fullback, and be used as both a runner and receiver, helps him earn a roster spot.
This position battle promises to be one of the most interesting of training camp.
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