The Giants wrapped up their spring portion of offseason workouts on Thursday and left feeling pretty good about their chances of defending the title.
But they are still left with questions about what to do with their overturned running back situation.
Sixth-year veteran Ahmad Bradshaw is still there — and ready to assume a larger role sans Brandon Jacobs — but after him there’s very little certainty on the depth chart. Bradshaw is recovering from a stem cell procedure on his foot in February, but said he fully expects to be ready for training camp come July 26.
“I just want to take it slow [and] just see how my foot reacts to a lot of pounding,” Bradshaw said, adding he has no further plans to see any doctors during the break.
While Bradshaw prepares to be starter, the Giants’ offensive staff have the task of finding a suitable backup. Smart money right now is on first-round pick David Wilson, who has impressed with his quick study and freakish athletic ability.
“I don’t know if we’ve had a guy as explosive, regardless of the position, here. I don’t know if we’ve seen quite the darting, the explosiveness in short bursts that we’ve seen with him,” offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. “That’s kind of exciting to see.”
For now, Wilson is working on his pass protection to fully earn the trust of his team.
“They know that I know what I have to do. It’s not a mystery and something I just found out [because] I knew this since draft day,” Wilson said when asked how he’s adjusting to pro football’s blitz schemes. “They tell me point-blank this is the blocking scheme and this is what I need to do. I can do it. I just need to show it during my reps.”
When it’s time to actually run the ball, particularly in short-yardage situations, the Giants also feel like they have the right mix of runners to get the job done. Despite their well-known shortcomings in seasons past on third-and-short conversions, Big Blue is confident their top two backs (Bradshaw is 5-foot-10, 214 pounds and Wilson is 5-foot-9, 205) can supplement for the loss of last year’s bruiser Jacobs (6-foot-4, 265 pounds).
Quarterback Eli Manning said he believes in his diminutive duo in short-yardage opportunities, but added sometimes a quick pass to the flat can also offset any troubles in that department.
“We’ve still got some big backs and Ahmad runs hard and Danny [Ware] is still a powerful running back,” Manning offered. “Some of them are a little bit better out of the backfield, so getting them into the passing game should also be a benefit for us. But I don’t think our scheme will change too much with whoever is in there.”
Regardless of the scheme or down-and-distance situation, the Giants’ young stable of running backs will earn the confidence of their peers and coaches as long as they continue to progress and pick up the nuances of playbook.
Running backs coach Jerald Ingram said it doesn’t matter if it’s a first-rounder like Wilson, an undrafted veteran like Ware, an undrafted youngster like Andre Brown, or a seventh-round pick like Da’Rel Scott, they’ll need to be ready when it’s time to give Bradshaw a breather.
“Ahmad’s been there before. I don’t worry about him, regardless if this is his first time [as a full-time starter],” said Ingram. “But the other guys, the young guys, I’ve always coached from the standpoint of I don’t care if you were in the first round or the last round [because] when you step on that field, you’re playing now with grown men. You’re either ready or you’re not. … You’re going to have that little bit of pressure [but] that should be good pressure for you. It’s only real pressure if you’re coming in unprepared. But when you come in, you better take care of that quarterback, take care of the offensive line and my team when out there.”
Big Blue notes
» Ingram reiterated he’s not hung up on draft status or years of service when it comes to evaluating talent, which is why he’s been praiseworthy of third-year undrafted free agent Brown: “Really the only thing that has held Andre back is just learning the offense [because] he’s big, fluid and strong. He really is gifted and athletically he might be as good as anybody out there. But his ability to learn in a lot of people’s offenses, because he’s had the world tour, has been his weakness. But since coming back here he’s showed that he actually could learn some of the things that we had done. He’ll continue to progress when he gets that opportunity [because] he has the size (6-foot, 240 pounds) to pick up 250-pound linebackers.”
Ingram added that Brown could be that “[former Giants running back] Derrick Ward type who helped us out on third downs because he has great hands, physical toughness and the ability to put it all together.”
»Every camp there’s an unsung rising star, a la Victor Cruz last season. Some in the Giants’ locker room hope that rookie tight end Adrien Robinson can be that sleeper. But unlike Cruz, who was in the Giants’ system for over a year as a practice squad player prior to his breakout season last year, Robinson is a fourth-round pick who’s already behind the eight-ball. Per the new collective bargaining agreement, Robinson wasn’t allowed to attend any of the spring sessions until his University of Cincinnati class graduated last week, so he missed valuable learning time. But according to tight ends coach Mike Pope, he thinks Robinson’s freakish athletic ability (general manager Jerry Reese dubbed him the JPP of tight ends) can help overcome whatever study sessions he missed: “To tell you the truth I haven’t seen a lot of him [because of the CBA rules] but I do think he is very, very talented. He is raw, though, as a lot of these young guys are [that are] coming from [a very little] football background. Talent-wise I think that we are right on with him [in the scouting reports], so I’m kind of encouraged going forward. But he’ll need to catch up fast because he missed valuable time, which is almost irreplaceable. … But we have high hopes for him if he catches up [mentally].”
»Eli Manning said he’s also intrigued to see which unknown player is ready for the bright lights: “We’re going to need some new guys to step up. We lost some guys, so we need some guys to raise their level of play, as well as other guys who’ve been doing it. Guys who are either new to the team or have been here a number of years that haven’t been a big part of this team need to raise their contributions and play at a higher level and fill some spots. We need to see which ones are competing for those open jobs and we need to see which ones are going to step up and take initiative and show the commitment to becoming a better player.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8 for all your offseason news.