The Giants got down to their 53-man roster over the weekend, with a few question marks surrounding their running back position.
Andre Brown, who was listed as the “1B” starting running back, went down with a fractured leg for the second straight season, which means more of the burden will rest on second-year back David Wilson. Brown insists he can return to the lineup in “four to six weeks,” but for the time being, Wilson will be the workhorse.
“Obviously, when you lose a running back, a guy who’s going to play a decent amount, it’s tough, but David has had a good preseason,” said Manning. “We’ve got a couple other backs that have been in the system for a little, are veteran guys, so someone’s got to step up and obviously play a role and get some reps in the run game and help out in the pass game.”
Wilson, who has blazing speed and breakaway capability, still needs to work on pass protection. And while that may be his biggest weakness, the diminutive back (5-foot-9, 205 pounds) said his shoulders are broad enough to carry the load.
“Don’t get confused by my size, I’m a physical guy,” said Wilson. “I’m from the country, so I grew up chopping wood and building houses with my dad. … I’m well put together.”
Wilson will need to put together a complete package of skills to lead the Giants’ rushing attack, whether it’s carrying the ball 20 to 25 times a game, picking up the blitz or catching the ball out of the backfield.
“I have the opportunity and, due to ‘Dre getting injured, someone’s got to do it,” Wilson said. “Going into [the season], it was mainly his job. We had a goal-line package where he was the guy to go in and get those tough yards. Now he’s out and I’m definitely going to have to step up and use all that stuff. … People just judge off my size. I’m looking forward to getting in there and getting those tough yards.”
Head coach Tom Coughlin also gave Wilson a vote of confidence, saying the dual-threat back can do everything the bigger Brown can do, while also maintaining his speed as the season grinds on.
“David Wilson runs in there hard, so I don’t have a problem with that at all. That’s not an issue for me,” said Coughlin. “He’s powerful. He’s compact. He has tremendous leg strength, which is his forte. For him to run the ball in short yardage and goal line, I don’t have an issue with that at all.”
Coughlin then addressed the proverbial “pitch count” for the running back.
“I think you have to have in the back of your mind a little idea about the number (of carries) and we do,” Coughlin said. “(But) David’s a guy who has outstanding endurance and strength. I’m not aware of what the number might be, but I’m sure we’ll work that out.”
The Giants, in a somewhat surprise move, released veteran running back Ryan Torain, who was having a strong preseason and training camp. The thought around the facilities was that the Giants would carry all five running backs — including seventh-round rookie selection Michael Cox and veteran Da’Rel Scott — on their roster and that especially after the Brown injury, they’d be compelled to keep the four remaining backs.
But apparently the organization thought so highly of Cox, who was the next-to-last player drafted and Scott, who like Wilson, possesses great breakaway speed, that the larger Torain was deemed expendable.
As Brown is out for the foreseeable future and Torain no longer with the team, Wilson said he’s more than prepared to handle whatever role the team asks of him — whether it’s the goal-line guy, or even if it’s kick return, something he’s been lobbying for all preseason.
“Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do. If they need me to kick a field goal, I’m going to go out there and give it 100 percent trying to kick a field goal,” said Wilson. “The carries or the workload, all that, is not a big factor for me. When I’m on the field I want to be effective and help my team win games.”
Wilson, who led the Giants with 179 rushing yards in the preseason, including an 84-yard touchdown run against the Jets that was the longest in the NFL this preseason, will get the chance to help Big Blue win some games, starting six days from now.
Big Blue notes …
»The Giants reshaped their practice squad on Sunday by re-signing seven of their Saturday cuts (defensive ends Adewale Ojomo and Matt Broha, cornerback Charles James, offensive linemen Stephen Goodin and Eric Herman and wideouts Marcus Harris and Julian Talley) and another free agent on Monday (safety Jawanza Starling).
»Former Giants linebacker Kyle Bosworth, who was a training-camp cut from Saturday, signed with their NFC East rival, the Cowboys. Big Blue opens the season in a primetime matchup in Dallas, Sept. 8.
»Wideout Victor Cruz, fullback Henry Hynoski, cornerback Jayron Hosley, defensive end Damontre Moore and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul were all at practice on Monday. Although Coughlin noted that while Pierre-Paul’s “bursts were good,” the defensive standout “obviously has a ways to go.”
»Center David Baas (knee) was seen working on the side, but not practicing. Coughlin noted he’s still probably a week away from practicing.
»Tight end Adrien Robinson (foot) will be “out a while,” according to Coughlin.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.