The Giants are in the midst of preparing for their big Monday night matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. And while they’re undoubtedly feeling good about the progression of their offense, it is a banged-up unit with its three top receivers either out or nursing injuries.
During times like these, however, it’s good to see the resiliency of an offense that didn’t skip a beat in last week’s thrilling, last-second, comeback win over the 49ers, as unsung players stepped up and played key roles.
Versatile running back Shane Vereen was one of them, as he notched eight catches for 86 yards and a touchdown in the win. Arguably the league’s best receiving option out of the backfield, Vereen tallied three catches for 54 yards on the game-winning drive and was used all over the field. His last touch was a 24-yard reception that advanced the ball to the San Francisco 20-yard line. Two plays later, Eli Manning hit tight end Larry Donnell for the game-winning 12-yard touchdown pass with just 21 seconds remaining.
Vereen may be the best receiving option, not named Odell Beckham Jr., on the Giants, as he’s routinely been a great safety valve for Manning. Both Beckham and Rueben Randle are dealing with hamstring issues – suffered in the Niners’ game – so if one or both wideouts miss Monday’s matchup, the next man up at receiver could be Vereen, especially if Victor Cruz (calf) is also out of the lineup.
Head coach Tom Coughlin appreciates Vereen’s value, noting he’ll be one of a handful of guys who will have to step up if the regular receivers can’t go or are limited.
“He can do so many things in certain situations when the defense may in fact think they’ve got you in a position where they have the upper hand. Someone like Shane can determine that might not necessarily be so,” said Coughlin, adding Vereen is a unique player. “Have we ever had a player like this, to be able to utilize his talents? Probably not to this degree. So we’re just looking forward to continuing to utilize his talent and his ability along with the other players that we have offensively.”
The other players include guys like Dwayne Harris, Geremy Davis, and Preston Parker. Cumulatively, they have 29 catches for 187 yards. Vereen, a running back, is already third on the team in both rushing (101 yards on 25 carries) and receiving (20 catches for 208 yards). He’s truly been one of the most valuable offseason free-agent acquisitions.
Vereen was a multipurpose threat for New England during his four seasons there, particularly in last season’s Super Bowl when he set a record for receptions by a running back in the big game. When he signed with the Giants, he had no idea how big his role would be, but with so many guys banged up, his presence has been a blessing for Big Blue.
“Coming here I didn’t really know how much to expect. All I knew was that I needed to come in and get my role down, get my plays that I needed to learn, and get the playbook kind of situated so I could feel comfortable with that. And now that I’ve got all that, I think I’m able to play freer,” said Vereen, adding it’s been as much a blessing for him being here, as the Giants feel in having him. “I couldn’t have picked a better organization. I can’t speak highly enough about this organization, about the coaching staff, and the job that they’ve done so far this season. Hopefully, we can continue to improve.”
And hopefully for the Giants (3-2), they can get a repeat performance from their multifaceted player in what will be the biggest game to date this season.
Big Blue notes:
-Vereen is on pace to finish the season with 80 catches this season, which would shatter his career high by 28.
-During his stint in New England, Vereen tallied 907 rushing yards and scored seven touchdowns, while gaining 1,023 receiving yards and scoring seven touchdowns. 2014 was his career year, as he had highs of 391 rushing yards and 52 catches for 447 yards.
-Manning earned his third-career NFC Offensive Player of the Week award following his stellar performance against the 49ers.
-Coughlin noted that had the Giants held practice on Wednesday, Beckham wouldn’t have participated: “It’s day to day. The trainers seem to think he’s making good progress. He wouldn’t practice today, no, but hopefully we’ll get some work in before the end of the week.”