As long as Eli Manning is the quarterback for the Giants, the offense will always run through him. But in order for Big Blue to get back into the Super Bowl hunt, even the Giants know their pristine passer needs help.
Giants running backs coach Jerald Ingram realizes the offense will always be slanted toward the pass, but he was quick to point out that every great offense still needs to run the ball to keep defenses honest.
“We’re gonna throw the ball here — a lot. That’s how we’re gonna win games here, but we still need to have great balance in running and throwing,” said Ingram. “You have to take care of Eli, that’s your [main] job.”
Ingram also noted that merely being a great runner with the football doesn’t mean a running back is fully doing his job. Rather, being an all-around threat, even when they don’t have the ball, is equally important.
The biggest case in Ingram’s point is the talent of second-year back David Wilson, who is in a camp battle with veteran Andre Brown for the No. 1 running back spot. Wilson is as great a breakaway threat as any back in the NFL, but Ingram said the only way for Wilson to maintain his current standing as the de facto starting running back and stay on the field on third down is if the youngster shores up all aspects of his game.
“He’s explosive. If he gets a crack ... he’s a track runner, so he has some qualities to get excited about because he’s a weapon. But he needs to do other things,” Ingram said. “I think he’s grown. He has a fairly good understanding of the offense right now. He’s definitely on a better track than he was a year ago in understanding our protections and doing those kinds of things. I think we’ll take advantage of his natural ability as much as we can ... but he’s got to be a guy that Eli can trust in every situation possible and we’ll go from there. But right now I think he’s on track.”
Wilson isn’t the only Giants running back who needs to further gain Manning’s trust, as Brown is also relatively new to the workload that’ll be bestowed upon him. Going simply on career achievements, it’d be hard pressed to find anyone outside the team’s facilities to have the utmost confidence in the Giants’ rushing attack. Wilson only has 71 career rushing attempts for 358 yards, while Brown has had 73 career attempts and 385 yards. But Brown could be considered as big a neophyte as the second-year Wilson considering the elder back is entering his fourth season and has only carried the ball 75 times for 384 yards, including minus-1 yard in his one-year pit stop in Denver.
Conversely, the guy the duo is replacing, Ahmad Bradshaw, carried the ball 221 times last season, with a career-high 276 carries in 2010.
Since the Giants will likely employ a 1-2 punch at running back, both Wilson and Brown will need to combine to surpass Bradshaw’s numbers, but the jury is still out on whether either or both can endure the pounding.
Brown thinks they’re both up to the task at hand and is itching to show and prove, starting with Saturday’s preseason opener in Pittsburgh.
“We’ve worked on our conditioning and coach Ingram made sure [because] he said that we were going to get a lot of carries, [and] it’s a lot different. It’s an opportunity and we’re looking forward to it,” Brown said. “We’ve worked hard this offseason and we’re excited about the opportunity we have and we’re ready to go and show what we’ve got. We’re ready to go into the 15-, 20-play drives where he [Ingram] doesn’t want to see us tapping out ... and ready to come out. He’s making sure that we’re in shape and being able to carry the load.”
Big Blue notes ...
» According to Wilson, he could care less who is currently slated as the starting running back.
“Like I said, we’re both going to contribute,” Wilson said. “The depth chart is a political thing, something that they have to put out there so the fans and other teams will know. You know, like I said, it’s mostly for the media. … Regardless of who’s in there, we’ve just got to all prepare, mentally and physically in camp. Going into those games and showing the coaches what we can do and what we’ve learned and how we’ve grown over the year. Then roles will be put in place more.”
One role Wilson admits to wanting is to remain the No. 1 kickoff returner.
“I definitely enjoyed it last year and I definitely want to be a part of it and have success at it again,” Wilson said.
» Ingram said he has no problem with his star running back pulling double duty:
“Tiki [Barber] has done it here before,” Ingram said. “There’s been [past] situations when we’ve needed that, or we’ve called on certain guys to get us past the 50 [yard line to start a drive]. He [Wilson] is excited about it. You’ll never know when he’s called, but you’ll be excited when he is back there.”
» Brown playfully scoffed at the notion that he’s simply the short-yardage battering ram, while Wilson is merely the home-run threat, by saying whatever label is tagged to the duo, they’re going to shock many.
“I think I’m more explosive than Dave, but some might say different,” Brown said. “I’ve been more of a downhill runner and he’s so explosive he can get outside and turn a 5-yard gain into a 60-yard homerun. We’re definitely looking forward to it and I’m just happy for the opportunity that we have.”
» The Giants have been using GPS-like tracking devices in the shoulder pads of the players during practice to gauge things like distance run in one day and top-end speed of each player. Brown said he’s a fan and added that guys have gotten really competitive trying to one-up each other when the end of the day tallies are marked.
“That’s started competition and everybody’s out here making sure we have burst and our workloads increase and I think it also tells the miles-per-hour that you’re going,” Brown said. “Dave’s a 22 [maximum miles per hour]. I’m like 18. And some of the guys like [wideout] Louis [Murphy] is up there, at like 23. Some of the guys are really moving, so we all look at the list and see how many bursts you have and who ran the fastest that day. It’s just competition to help us fly around more, that’s all.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8 for live quotes and updates from training camp.