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RB Roster Breakdown and Training Camp Battles

Taken from: sportscrunch

I’ve discussed the QB and MLB positions on the NY Giants and now I’m going to turn my attention to a unit that was very dissapointing in 2009. The NY Giants have traditionally been a run first team that likes to pound away and play defense in the winter, but last year the defense struggled to keep opponets out of the end zone and the run game was average at best.

What is perhaps not talked about enough is how each facets inability to produce to their expected levels affects the other unit.

A potent run game can keep opposing offenses off the field keeping the defense fresh and points off the board.

On the other hand, a porous defense forces an offense into passing situations which does not allow the run game to get into a rhythm and thus reduces the effectiveness of the run game.

Whatever the deal is this much is certain: BOTH the  Defense and the run games need to improve in 2010 if the NY Giants are to seriously contend for the playoffs or hopefully a Superbowl Berth.

Let’s get into the NY Giants roster at running  backs.

Here are the current running backs listed on the NY Giants roster: Ahamahd Bradshaw, Andre Brown, Brandon Jacobs, Gartrell Johnson, D.J. Ware, Madison Hedgecock, Jerome Johnson.

The running backs are an interesting group. There is a STARTER, but because of the nature of the game most teams have two or even three running backs that they rely on. So who is named the “starter” of a team is more about pride than it is about the impact on the team.

The incumbent

Brandon Jacobs-Brandon Jacobs is a 6 foot 4 inch mammoth of a man who weighs in at nearly 270 pounds. Jacobs is bigger than most linebackers (this is NOT an exagerration) and is the equal size of some of the defensive linemen in the league, especially those short fast bred DE like Dwight Freeney, Trent cole, and Osi Umeniyora.

Jacobs emerged in 2007 where he rushed for over a 1,000 yards and 5 yards per carry in only 11 games scoring four touchdowns.

The next year just to show that it was no fluke Jacobs rushed for 1089 yards but this time punching the ball into the endzone fifteen times.

During that two year time span Jacobs also caught 29 balls for 210 yards and another two touchdowns.

Jacobs and the Giants awarded each other with a four year contract. (Jacobs certainley could have found more had he made a big fuss and entered the free agenet market).

And then last year came and Jacobs was not the same player he was the years before. In his first real full season (15 games) Jacobs rushed for 835 yards and only 3.7 yards per carry with 5 touchdowns. He also grabbed 18 balls for a 184 yards and another touchdown (the memorable 74 yard scamper vs the Cowboys).

And according to Brandon Jacobs was sixth worst running back in the league last year (overall). Averaginly on 2.6 yards after contact per attempt. Nearly A yard less than he averaged in 2007 where he was 9th best in the league in 2008.

The other thing that Jacobs did not show in 2009 was the explosion he showed in 2008 where he had 12 runs of more than 20 yards in only 13 games (basically one a game). In 2009 Jacbos only had four rushes of more than 20 yards the entire season.

There is no question that Jacobs was not as productive in 2009 as he was in 2008 and 2007. The question is why is this so?

Was Jacobs complacent after receiving a four year contract? Was the offensive line not able to give the push Jacobs needs because of his style of running? Was Brandon Jacobs asked to run the wrong kind of plays (something that was often suggested in the middle of the season)? Was Brandon Jacobs hurt?

Brandon Jacobs and the NY Giants probably have the most insight into the answer to this question and the only answer I’m refusing to accept and give Jacobs a pass on was that he got his money and was no longer trying. And if that IS the case we should not expect much more from Jacobs in 2010, which would be a shame because when he’s right he is fun to watch.

I have faith in Jacobs having a bounce back year though because Jacobs is a proud man and wants to start, but if he is he’s going to have to have a good pre-season to hold off the emering Ahmahd Bradshaw.

The Main Contender

Ahmad Bradshaw

The main competition for Jacbos starting job is Ahmad Bradshaw the little engine that could. Bradshaw has shown in spurts that he’s very capable of being a very good running back in the N.F.L. the little man has speed, elusiveness, and even some power.

He’s had some huge runs in his Giants career like his big touchdown vs Buffalo in 2007 that sealed a Giants playoff berth.

Bradshaw is entering his fourth season and has shown improvement in each of his seasons. He showed flashes in 2007 despite only receiving 23 carries (he rushed for nearly 200 yards and almost 9 yards per carry). Then in 2008 he got a little bit more of a chance to shine and Bradshaw ran 67 times and 355 yards for an average of 5.3 yards per carry.

In 2009 Bradshaw had a very solid season (which I know Illnicki expected, but I was skeptical) much to the delight of Giants fans. Bradshaw rushed for 778 yards on a 163 carries 4.8 yards per carry. He also caught 21 balls for 207 yards and punched in 7 touchdowns (all rushing).

Bradshaw also showed an ability to block according to where he recorded a 5.2 which was third best among all running backs in the league.

Bradshaw had a very good season despite playing on two ankles that were less than 100 percent. Bradshaw also averaged 2.9 yards per contact after attempt which was 17th best in the league.

Bradshaw also was one of the most elusive running backs in the league according to and was in an article that Illnikci posted a little while back.

But there are questions about Bradshaw despite his continued improvement. First as his carries have increased his yards per carries has gone done (very similar to Marion Barber who’s effectiveness went down the more he was used), which is to be expected. The more carries you have the more the yards per carry will even off. The question is will it continue to decrease the more times he touches the ball?

Secondly, while Bradshaw has shown he can be a capable reciever out of the backfield I am not sold that he’s the best receiver out of the backfield and not that its crushing, but the Giants dont need a good receiver out of the backfield on third down which Bradshaw still has to prove can be him.

Lastly, Bradshaw is  sleight listed at 5’9 and a 198 pounds (which might be a little high) and wondering whether or not he can handle more of a workload is a legetimate question.

Still, Bradshaw is fun to watch and a fan favorite who has shown great improvement the past three seasons and looks poised to breakout this year and possibly become the Giants starting running back, and if its based on play from the 2009 season Bradshaw certainley deserves to be a starting running back in this league.

The Third Running Back

In 2008, the Giants had the luxury of having the talent Ahmad Bradshaw has their third running back on the depth chart which was a relentless amount of talent for opposing defenses who had to deal with earth, wind, and fire.

In the 2009 N.F.L. Draft the NY Giants selected Andre Brown in the fourth round of the draft looking to replace Derrick Ward. This was no coincidence Brown has a similar (though I think slightly better) skill set than Derrick Ward. They are similar player. Andre Brown, like every Giants player last year suffered an injury that cost him a productive season.

Brown is listed at 6 and 225 pounds and run a 4.49 forty yard dash at the combine.

Brown was also very productive at NC State, but dealt with a slew of injuries.  Brown also battled some inconstency at college.

Here is one scouting report from

Brown is a very good running back with some consistency problems. At times you see him run hard and explosive and pick up good positive yardage and other times you see him be very indecisive and dance around which allows him to be tackled for a loss. His change of direction and cut back ability need to be worked on and I think that is probably his biggest need of improvement. With strengthening his cut back abilities Brown could become a very valuable and versatile back. Brown’s ability to recognize the blitz and be a very good blocker makes him a viable prospect to make an impact sooner rather than later on an NFL franchise.

And another one from CBSsports

Route Running: Brown is a back that is capable of handling screens, check-downs and flats. He is not the type to line up wide or in the slot, but does show good burst and urgency coming out of the backfield. He has a very good feel for the passing game, but does not cut sharply on his breaks and needs to work on generating better hip wiggle to help him find ways to get open. GRADE: 5.5

Blocking Ability: Brown is a willing blocker who is an efficient blitz pick-up blocker. He will make an effort, will cut block in pass protection and has power to block, but fails to generate good hip snap or mirror to get out on the edge in pass protection. He gets his hands up quick enough to jolt working in-line and is best served blocking in the backfield than in the second level (not good at angling). GRADE: 6.0

Compares To: FRED TAYLOR, New England — Brown will never be the high-yardage, productive runner Taylor was in his heydays, but both show a good combination of power and quickness as an inside runner. Brown is starting to develop nice receiving skills, but he does not have the loose hips to be effective on outside runs. Like Taylor, he is a bit of a medical risk. Fortunately, he has a lot of experience in a “running back by committee” set-up, as he has a few holes in his game to ever be considered a franchise back. He would be a nice replacement for Derrick Ward with the Giants.

I’m very high personally on Andre Brown and think he can fufill the role as a receiver out of the backfield and can provide some very quality runs in the running game.

I think Brown is a more talented (on purely athletic ability) Derrick Ward. The question is does Brown have Derrick Wards effort and will power. Ward was an undrafted Free Agent with the Jets who fought to eventually get a job and eventually was used a lot with the NY Giants, but he had to fight to get to that point. Most people didn’t realize that when the Giants chose not to sign Derrick Ward they weren’t not resigning a 24 year old player looking for his second contract, they were looking for a younger replacment becuase Derrick Ward was 28 years old at the end of the 2009 season.

Is Andre Brown the running back to beat for the third running back position?

I believe so and early indications are that the Giants are giving him every chance to win the job. But also early indications are that Andre Brown has a lot of catching up to do because he missed all of last seaosn although he seems to be almost fully recovered from his season ending injury.

I like Andre Brown, but he’s not the only player vying for the third running back spot.

D.J. Ware

D.J. Ware has been a pre-season tease and got his chance last year to step up and take hold of the third running back position.

He also received kick return duties for a small portion of the season. D.J .Ware was not able to capitalize on his opportunity in part because of injuries. When he came back from injury (he was then D.J. Ware and no longer Danny Ware) and he was no longer the third running back as the Giants had percured the rights to Gartrell Johnson from the San Deigo Chargers (claimed off waviers? I believe so).

D.J. Ware is not a favorite player of Tom Coughlin for whatever reason: work ethic? Doesn’t contribute enough on Special teams? Attitude problem? I’m not sure, but Ware needs to step it up this season.

Gartrell Johnson

from mocking the

Scouting report: Gartrell Johnson


Strengths: A powerfully built, one-cut running back, Johnson really came on during his senior season. Quick feet and has good agility. Great vision. Has a body that allows him to shake off tacklers. Runs with a good, wide base. Gets terrific body lean and could be good in short yardage plays.

Weaknesses: Does not have great speed.

Final word: Johnson has an NFL-sized frame, but questions about his speed and quickness hitting the hole greatly limit his upside. A powerful running back, Johnson can break tackles and run over opponents.


1/29/09: Gartrell Johnson’s 40 is going to hurt him, but hopefully some team will see past that. In 2008, Johnson recorded 1,476 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. He also helped out the passing game by catching 32 balls for 295 more yards.

Gartrell Johnsons 40 time was 4.77*

Johnson is a big powerful running back who goes over players and not around them. Johnson was also drafted one pick before Andre Brown in the 2009 N.F.L. Draft and it’s interesting that the Giants claimed him off waivers and that Johnson was drafted one pick before Andre Brown. Would they have drafted Johnson instead of Brown (purely speculation).

I like Gartell Johnson and hopefully he can contribute on special teams or be a goal line punshing running back if Brandon Jacobs bounces back. I think Johnson will win the fourth running back position on the NY Giants. He’s young, and he’s the kind of guy who can have a specified role.

The Fullbacks

Madison Hedgecock

I wrote about this before, but I’m not a huge proponet of fullbacks. I think they are fine players, but I prefer halfbacks or players with a little more flexibility. It’s nice to have fullbacks who can run and block (Laron McClain, Mike Alstott, Leonard Weaver) or catch the ball like a William Floyd a former 49er and Panther who had nearly 1500 yards receving in his career.

I think fullbacks need to help out the running game, but there are TWO ways to help out the offense. One is being a great blocker (and for whatever reason Hedgecock was not last year). The other way is being a threat to run or catch a pass.

A player that has to be accounted for can be as effective as a player who is blocking. As long as a FB is occupying a defensive player then it works well.

I personally like having the extra roster spot by having a TE/FB or Hback or a FB who can also double as a running back more than I like a guy who just blocks.

Thats my opinion and that’s why I think Madison Hedgecock is overated. His presence in my humble opinion has not drastically helped the running game in either St. Louis or in NY.

The Contender

Jerome Johnson

Hedgecock is a Couhglin and team favorite and will be on the team. Johnson is intriguing though. A former linebacker in college Johnson has more athletic ability than Hedgecock and recorded two catches in pre-season which is more than Hedgecock has in his career (well clean catches and yes I’m exaggerating).

What are your throughts on the running back position for the NY Giants for 2010 nfl Season?

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