For years, the New York Giants have survived through a viable running game led by beloved former stars Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. Both are gone now, however, and with 2012 first-round pick David Wilson’s career at risk due to a severe neck injury and Andre Brown set to become a free agent, the G-Men are certain of nothing at the running back position.
Ideally, Wilson will be back at 100 percent health and then maybe they re-sign Brown and get the backfield they thought they’d have in 2013. But you can’t bank on that. Brown may not be back with the Giants next season and Wilson may never play football again. Fortunately for the Giants, there are an abundance of available options in free agency and this year’s draft class that could boost the team’s running game in 2014.
Yesterday, we noted some of the draft’s top running backs and how they would fit in New York. My personal favorites would be Carlos Hyde of Ohio State, Ka’Deem Carey of Arizona and Marion Grice of Arizona State. All three men would be quality fits to what offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo will likely require in his new offense.
All three would also offer a necessary change of pace from the shifty David Wilson, who fares better running outside the tackles. And they can block, something the Giants desperately need since letting Bradshaw walk in free agency following the ‘12 season.
There are also good players to be had on the free-agent market, such as Packers tailback James Starks, who has spent the duration of his four-year pro career with McAdoo on the staff in Green Bay. Starks is absolutely not a No. 1 option and cannot be depended to carry the rushing attack from week to week, but he would be a serviceable player as part of a backfield-by-committee similar to what the G-Men have employed for nearly two decades now.
Better players also available through free agency include the Texans’ Ben Tate, the Raiders’ Darren McFadden and the Broncos’ Knowshon Moreno.
Of those players, Tate may be the best bet. Having spent his first three years of his NFL career backing up Arian Foster in Houston, the 25-year-old back has shown the potential to be a very good starter. He has racked up 1,992 yards despite just seven starts and has averaged 4.7 yards per carry.
Though not a superb receiver out of the backfield, he did catch 34 passes for 140 yards this season. He is a good pass protector—a major bonus—with minimal need for improvement. To make matters better, he has a generally clean bill of health thus far as a pro.
McFadden and Moreno also pose good options, but there are concerns surrounding both.
McFadden, of course, is as injury prone as one can be while still being a member of an NFL roster. If he could ever stay healthy, it’s possible McFadden would be one of the league’s elite rushers.
Moreno, meanwhile, took some time to catch on in the NFL. And though he ran well and produced a ton for the Broncos as a receiver out of the backfield, one has to wonder if that wasn’t merely a product of Peyton Manning and Denver’s offense. No question, he would be worth the risk for the Giants in their current situation. However, money would likely be the biggest issue as Moreno is expected to command a pretty hefty deal this offseason.
It’s possible the Giants could look lower down the ladder, both in the draft and in free agency, with the hopes of aiming low and scoring high as they have many times before. General Manager Jerry Reese has shown a good eye for talent, but with a changing NFL, it will be a difficult task to find a running back who will find success in the league and fit into the Giants’ new offensive scheme.
Sure, the Giants and their fans can find some solace in knowing that it doesn’t take a good running game to be successful in the NFL today. But as recent Super Bowl winners have proven—the Giants included—you need a stout running game to compete and win in the playoffs when it matters the most.