by Richard McBane
The addition of running back Rashad Jennings will turn out be a pleasant surprise (although it shouldn’t) to the Giants offense.
With the alarming neck injury to RB David Wilson that ultimately ended his career last season, the Giants were forced to move on with an assortment of five backs that rushed for a little over 1000 yards combined.
This year however, look to Rashad Jennings to become the offensive backbone the Giants have needed of late. He can virtually do it all for the Giants offense. He has the ability to break out for big plays as seen in his 73 yard touchdown run against the Steelers this preseason, and will take the bulk of carries this season. He also has exceptional blocking and pass catching abilities. He is an all-around competitor and reliable offensive presence solidifying the question mark that was the Giants running game.
Jennings talks the talk and walks the walk in his offseason training routines and the way he he handles press conferences. In an August 23rd interview Jennings said “you always want consistency”; a sign of good things to come and hopefully often for Giant fans. His belief in being consistent coincides with the traditional and hardworking culture the Mara family has established in the Giants organization. Jennings also said “it’s all about being physical and finishing runs as a runner” in the same August interview. We can assume Jennings will be true to his word, because he was third in the NFL last season in yards after contact finishing only behind Chris Ivory and Adrian Peterson.
In a Giants.com featured video of his workout routines1, he talked of performing exercises to build up “explosiveness, endurance and durability” with muscle activating therapy. He also revealed he sleeps in a “hyperbolic chamber” to keep his body durable due to the everyday wear and tear he endures as a running back. With these serious measures being taken to enhance his athleticism and performance, it seems the Giants finally have the real deal at the running back position they lacked for over a year. He emphasized this feeling by quoting one of his former coaches: “The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender”.
Jennings’ stats through two games:
The Giants step into the third week of the regular season in what some people would say is a devastating 0-2 hole. 12% of teams since 1990 that dug themselves into this deep of a hole have gone on to make the playoffs (the 2008 super bowl winning Giants being one of them). The Giants opened up the season against the Lions in a completely lopsided game. The revamped New York defense was steamrolled by Calvin “Megatron” Johnson and company, allowing Matt Stafford to throw for 346 yards, including two TD passes to Johnson. Jennings was held to 46 yards rushing, but he did have a goal line dive in which he muscled his way into the end zone for a touchdown. It was one of the few bright spots in a 35-14 debacle.
In the second game of the season, against the Cardinals, it felt like one of those games where turnovers and penalties end up costing a team a victory. Overall the team showed much improvement as Eli was able to throw for 277 yards and two touchdowns, but too many errors proved to be the Giants’ downfall. The G-Men headed into the fourth quarter up by four points but failed to execute and finish off the game. Among the many mistakes was a costly punt return on a short punt by an injured Weatherford, a lost fumble on the Giants’ own 21 yard line, a pair of Victor Cruz drops, and a 63-yard drive that ended when Jennings’ coughed up the football.
Although he gave up a crucial fumble in the fourth quarter, Jennings rushed for 64 yards and showed his versatility with a surprising blocked punt. The fumble was as he said in his own words “uncharacteristic” of him; his last fumble was in 2012.
With the pressure on the team to win their first game and avoid a disastrous 0-3 start, expect Jennings to bounce back after the shortcomings of his first two games as well as continue to execute the positives of his game. Pressure often brings out the best in good athletes and Jennings is no different. When speaking of the pressure leading to this week’s game he said “pressure can be a great thing, it can break pipes, but can also make diamonds”. His mentality for tomorrow’s game: “everybody is going to dig deep, we love this game and we have a lot to prove”2.
1 – Giants.com(1)
2 – Giants.com(2)
Richard McBane is a U of Albany Alum, and an avid Yankees and Giants supporter. He can be reached Twitter at @RichieeMC