The Giants placed David Wilson on injured reserve today, ending his 2014 season and apparently his career. He has chosen to walk away from the NFL because of his continuing neck issues. While that is an obvious tragedy for Wilson, it does clear up the Giants backfield by removing a player who was a wildcard and a major risk.
Rashad Jennings is the primary back after his one season in Oakland that finally allowed him the chance to show what he could do after spending his first three years backing up Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville. He was rarely used there and opted to play on a one-year contract in Oakland. To no surprise, the Raiders lost Darren McFadden to a hamstring injury last year and Jennings stepped in. From weeks nine through 15 he was the starter and ran 113 times for 539 yards and six touchdowns along with 19 catches for 160 yards. Those included 100+ yard games against the Eagles and Texans. He signed a four-year, $10 million contract with the Giants that had $2.98 million guaranteed. Hardly a huge sum but it was in a very depressed market for veteran running backs.
The Giants also selected Andre Williams out of Boston College with their 4.13 pick in the draft. The 5-11/230 bruiser has already impressed in the Hall of Fame Game where he rushed seven times for 48 yards and a hefty 6.9 yard average. He also scored on a 3-yard run in the first quarter while still facing at least some of the starters for the Bills. Jennings only gained 23 yards on his seven runs and Peyton Hillis went for 23 yards when he too rushed seven times.
The loss of Wilson helps clear up the backfield that will still use a committee of sorts. New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo comes over from Green Bay and has already spoken to using multiple backs. Peyton Hillis will remain a distant #3 in this pecking order and both Jennings and Williams will carry almost all the load.
Jennings is the veteran and will be the primary back since he’s the most well-rounded in rushing, receiving and blocking. He surprised when given the chance in Oakland and parlayed that into his chance to be a team’s starting running back. The bar is low for him since the Giants elected to blow-up the squad last year that saw Andre Brown lead the Giants with just 492 rushing yards and as a team the running backs combined for only 3.5 yards per carry.
The player to track here remains the rookie Williams who rightfully should be rising in the rankings. He is already penciled in as the goal line back and played that role in camp. He is the same size as Jennings but seven years younger (22 vs. 29). He lacks experience as a receiver given he had just ten catches in college. And his first three years saw him only given a moderate amount of carries as a part of a committee. But 2013 he led the nation with 355 runs for 2177 yards. A few good preseason games and he’ll definitely cut into Jennings workload if not eventually take the biggest chunk at least as a rusher.
It is a two man race in New York and both come cheap enough in drafts to merit tracking for mid-round value picks.