Rashad Jennings rushed for 733 yards last season with the Raiders. Credit: Getty Images
The Giants’ backfield was ravaged by injury last year with every running back missing time due to injury.
Whether it was Andre Brown, David Wilson, Peyton Hillis, Brandon Jacobs or even rookie Michael Cox, Big Blue was left black and blue in the backfield.
Brown and Jacobs are gone, and the Giants added Rashad Jennings in one of the more-overlooked moves of the offseason. But he’s not coming in expecting to be gifted the starting role.
“That’s not how I approach it,” Jennings said. “Maybe that’s how I’m perceived, but I’m tunnel vision. ... I just keep my head down and grind. Wherever I see fit to help my team is where I fit in.”
Jennings’ chief rival for playing time, incumbent David Wilson, said he’s “not worried” about losing any ground in the starting competition.
“We all kind of learn together because it’s a new playbook,” said Wilson. “He’s never seen the plays, I’ve never seen the plays, so we’re all kind of taking this one day at a time.”
Andre Williams has more than his share of catching up. Williams, the team’s fourth-round draft pick out of Boston College, is trying to get acclimated to being a professional athlete.
Lucky for him, everyone has been so helpful, particularly his fellow backfield members.
“The running back crew is definitely a good group of guys. Rashad was the first to reach out to me. He’s definitely been there for me,” said Williams. “It’s a little bit more to learn in regards to knowing who you have to pick up in pass-pro [pass protection], but I’m in the backfield with a prolific quarterback, so Eli [Manning] knows what’s going on. He’s always helping me out.”
Williams also reasoned that now that he’s a professional he’s taking everything so seriously. He added that being close to home is more gift than curse.
“The biggest difference between college and the pros is the amount of time you’re able to put in the game,” he said. “Just the fact I’m done with school and able to spend more time in the playbook is helping me out. ... And being home helps. Sure, there’s pros and cons in everything, but I take everything as a gift. Being close to home will just help me get into everything faster and get adjusted faster.”
Williams allowed he’s probably not an ordinary rookie since the Giants organization is littered with Boston College grads. And the fact that Williams is a New Jersey native, by way of South Plainfield, also helps his adjustment curve.
“I definitely love that I’m in the B.C. network,” said Williams. “The owner went to B.C. Coach Coughlin coached at B.C. and there’s a bunch of people in the locker room that went to B.C., so I definitely feel at home. I definitely feel more comfortable.”
Perhaps the one thing that could make the rookie uncomfortable is the new offense’s reliability in throwing to the running backs. Williams was a Heisman Trophy finalist and looked upon as one of the best runners in the country, following his 2,177 rushing yards. But with no receptions last season and only 10 for his career, he’s far from being a polished receiving option.
“I’ve been working on it [catching] since I left B.C. and that’s definitely been the biggest focus because that’s something that I didn’t have to do a lot of at B.C.,” said Williams. “I knew I’d have to step it up this year and it’s definitely showing on the field. ... The goal is the Super Bowl and I plan on helping this team in any shape, form or fashion.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter@TBone8.