The tragic, career-ending injury suffered by David Wilson has made the running back picture a little clearer for the New York Giants. As it stands, Rashad Jennings will be the starter and behind him it will either be Peyton Hillis or Andre Williams. Both were extremely impressive against the Bills last Sunday night as both averaged over five yards per carry. The competition between Hillis and Williams is so close that, although Hillis is listed as the number two back on the depth chart, Williams would probably be considered “2a.” Michael Cox is in a distant fourth place after his dismal performance in the team’s first preseason contest.
The Case for Peyton Hillis:
Peyton Hillis and the Giants are hoping are both hoping to recapture the magic that he had in the 2010 season, where he gained 1,177 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. His career appeared to be taking off as he even won the fan vote to be the cover boy for Madden NFL ’12. Unfortunately for Hillis, he may have suffered from the” Madden Curse” in 2011. Instead of his apparent ascendance, it seems he may have reached his peak, as he has steadily declined in each season since his break out year. Massive losses in the Giants backfield last season gave Hillis another chance to prove he belongs in the NFL. So far he is off to a good start with a solid performance (seven carries for 36 yards) after the first preseason game. His ability to catch passes out of the backfield is a huge plus for him as well. He could end up playing a John Kuhn like role in the Giants new offense. If he continues to produce at this level he will find himself in the running back rotation this season.
The Case for Andre Williams:
The team is hopeful that Williams is able to accelerate his progress so he can win the number two job from Hillis. Williams was the second running back on the field during the Hall of Fame game and he took advantage of his opportunity with the first team offense. On just seven carries Williams rushed for 48 yards, including a 21 yard burst that set up the Giants lone rushing touchdown which he scored on the next play. All of it added up to almost seven yards per carry and is great first step to prove that he should be second back behind Jennings. The only down side to Williams game is his ability to catch passes out of the backfield. The backs will be expected to be able to make plays out of the backfield so he will have to improve upon that to solidify a spot the second back on the depth chart.
Michael Cox’s stock is Free Falling:
Cox failed to take advantage of getting the most carries of any Giants’ back last Sunday night. On nine carries he managed just 3 yards. Most of carries went for negative yardage, in fact and he did not show that he has made any kind of improvement from last season. The former seventh round selection was thrust into the line-up at times in 2013 and was ineffective then as well. Luckily for him Kendall Gaskins, who is behind Cox on the depth chart, managed to turn in a benign performance as well. Because Peyton Hillis tweaked his ankle in practice on Tuesday it is likely that Cox will get more playing time against the Steelers on Saturday night. If he fails to make an impact it would not be surprising if he doesn’t survive the first round of cuts.
Overall the Giants have to be pretty happy with their performance on the ground. Their top three backs combined for 107 yards on 21 carries, and Jennings added 20 more yards on three receptions. With four more games left on the preseason docket the team has something to build on. At the very least it is definitely a step in the right direction for a team who finished 29th in rushing last season.