Evaluating the New York Giants running back situation

Last week, USA Today ranked the New York Giants roster 16th in the NFL. One area of concern highlighted by Nate Davis was the running back situation.

He wrote, “The secondary, D-line and receivers are all elite or at least borderline. But the linebackers, special teams and running back situations leave this team looking quite lopsided.”


Conspicuous by its absence is the offensive line composition (more on that another time). But another position group traditionally on this list was tight end. With draft pick Evan Engram in the fold, and Rhett Ellison signed away from the Minnesota Vikings, it may actually be a strength this season.

At the running back position, the New York Giants mostly stood pat. The team added Wayne Gallman (Clemson) during the NFL draft. It also released former starter Rashad Jennings as it looks to get younger and quicker.

The Holdovers

Even though Rashad Jennings was not an ideal starter, he was a professional running back. In fact, he may have been the perfect player in a Tom Coughlin system. Coughlin preferred veteran players, and sometimes he was right in pursuing that direction.

Former halfback David Wilson was a potential dynamic game-breaker for Big Blue. Coughlin was reluctant to start him due to ball security issues and lack of pass blocking technique. Eventually Coughlin was proven correct.

Under Ben McAdoo, the team seems to embrace a small level of growing pains. Last season, Paul Perkins became a beneficiary of the change of philosophy. Perkins responded with a 112 carries for 456 rushing yards and a 4.1 yards per carry average. Those statistics are respectable, but not eye opening, yet Perkins is now the starter.

Shane Vereen comes back from an injury-plagued season to be the third-down back. When Vereen came on the scene a few years back, I thought he could be an every down back, but that has not been the case. Since he has durability issues, Vereen may predominately contribute on third-down. But if Vereen breaks down again, it may be catastrophic for the New York Giants.

According to Dan Duggan of NJ Advance Media, “Assuming there are no lasting effects from the triceps injury, Vereen should resume his prominent role in the offense. His ability as a receiver and pass-blocker are extremely valuable in the Giants’ West Coast offense.

Orleans Darkwa returns for a fourth season with the New York Giants. Darkwa provides a special teams presence and depth. Last season before injury curtailed his season, Darkwa averaged 3.7 yards per carry.  He know the system, but must perform in preseason to keep his roster spot. Keep in mind that Darkwa started two games for Big Blue, so the coaching staff sees something.

New York Giants Newbies

Hope are high for Wayne Gallman, fourth-round draft pick from Clemson. The two best rookie running backs in the NFL last season were Zeke Elliott and sixth-round pick Jordan Howard (Chicago). According to NFL.com, Dallman could be an immediate contributor for the G-Men.

“Gallman, who hails from a similar spread offense the Giants run, is the downhill power runner the Giants offense lacked last season,” according to Mark Dulgerian.

Shaun Draughn comes to the New York Giants after two season with the San Francisco 49ers. Based upon his career stats, Draughn will primarily be in competition for a roster spot, possibly with Darkwa. His career yards per carry average is a pedestrian 3.2, but he caught 29 passes from out of the backfield last season.

One final question that surrounds the running back room is the fullback situation. Big Blue has both Shane Smith and Jacob Huesman in camp. We know that the team will not keep two players at this position. Conversely, they may not keep any.

Both will have to prove value as a blocker, as well as a special teams dynamo. Keep in mind that newly signed tight end Rhett Ellison may see time as an H-Back, which certainly muddles the situation for both Huesman and Smith.