by Richard McBane
The Giants have stood tall the last three weeks. There was the much needed win in week three against Houston Texans to avoid a dreaded 0-3 hole. Then there was the ensuing Thursday night rout of the division rival Washington Redskins, and last week’s come from behind win against the Atlanta Falcons.
All seems to be right in Giants’ land. The offense is clicking under Ben McAdoo’s system, the defense is playing cohesive physical football, and special teams still never fails to make you want to pull your hair out every time they are on the field.
However, the knee injury that lead RB Rashad Jennings suffered at MetLife Stadium last Sunday could add some turbulence at a pivotal point in the season. With road trips to hostile division rival territory (Philadelphia and Dallas) before their bye, many are looking at these two games to reveal the true colors of the Giants. Will they be true contenders in the NFC East, or will they be a bust?
The Giants will look to rookie running back Andre Williams to pick up Jennings’ workload. The 22-year old Boston College alumnus was selected in the fourth round (113th overall) in this year’s draft. At 5’11” and 234 pounds, the Poughkeepsie, NY native was a formidable running threat throughout his college career, but really broke out in his senior year in 2013. His final college season saw him amass 25 runs of at least 20 yards or more and his 2,177 total rushing yards sent him into Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) history as #5 all-time in single season rushing yards.
His greatest performance as a BC Eagle set a single game FBS record for 2013; he carried the ball 42 times for 339 yards and two touchdowns. Williams finished fourth in the 2013 Heisman trophy candidate voting, won the Doak Walker Award (given to the nation’s top running back) and was named a unanimous All-American.1
Off the field, Williams is no dud either. He graduated a semester early while earning his bachelor’s in applied psychology and human development from the Lynch School of Education. He has also begun writing a memoir which he has titled “A King, , a Queen and a Conscience” based on his experiences that have shaped him to be the person he is today.
He has also infused business into his craft as he is has created a compression shirt that would help stabilize runners’ shoulders. Williams knows that football does not last forever, especially for running backs and has plans for a future in philanthropy. He aspires to establish non-profit organizations for children and has already written mission statements for some of them.2
For at least the next few weeks, the Giants need Williams to show his versatility on the field. Throughout his career there have been doubts regarding his pass catching and blocking abilities, but now he has the chance to silence his critics. He’s already begun to prove his worth in the NFL – last week against the Falcons he rushed 20 times for 65 yards and caught both passes thrown to him in relief for his injured mentor, Jennings.
Williams must continue to improve and perform in the absence of Jennings in order for the Giants to be a force in NFC East. While his fill in performance was exciting, the next two weeks will serve as the true test for Williams’ NFL ability
His peers certainly think he is up for the challenge. His predecessor, Jennings, has full faith in him to perform. “I have complete confidence in Andre.”, Jennings said and added “he’s a great player; he’s going to continue to be great. He wants to be great and he’s going to be a good player in this league.”
Eli Manning went on to praise the rookie saying “I thought he came in last week and played really well, ran the ball hard, ran over some guys, caught the ball well”.
Coach Tom Coughlin said “We expect him to be what he was a week ago, a downhill, north-south runner, which is what he does very, very well”. It is a good sign the coach praises Williams to take the workload of carries in the upcoming weeks to give the rookie confidence in the biggest stage of his career.
Whatever the circumstances may bring him Sunday evening, Williams’ response will be critical to the teams performance. One thing for sure, Williams will give it his all as Andre the Giant says, “I only know one way to run, so I am just going to run hard and make sure I compete at the highest level.” 3
1 – bceagles.com
2 – nytimes.com
3 – giants.com
Richard McBane is a U of Albany Alum, and an avid Yankees and Giants supporter. He can be reached Twitter at @RichieeMC