The Giants defense has been ravaged with injuries, which means keeping a thinning unit off the field is at a premium.
No one will benefit more from that than bruising running back Brandon Jacobs.
The seven-year veteran is coming off a strange 2010 campaign in which he began as the starter, was later benched for good friend Ahmad Bradshaw and then later re-inserted into the lineup when Bradshaw’s fumbling became an issue. Despite being yo-yoed in and out of the lineup, Jacobs still managed a respectable 823 yards.
Heading into this year’s training camp, Jacobs was informed by head coach Tom Coughlin that he would see a larger workload and should be prepared to be the closer in most games. The mercurial Jacobs said there were a lot of yards left on the table last year and added this year’s running game should trump a unit that produced 2,220 combined rushing yards in 2010.
“I think the running game definitely can be better than it was last year. I don’t think we ran the ball with conviction last year like we want to this year,” Jacobs said. “Like I said, we will be put in the right place and we are going to be ready to take it and run with it. It is just a matter of if they want to give it to us.”
Neither Bradshaw nor Jacobs knows exactly how they’ll be used, but they’re just happy to help out an offensive unit that’s undergone a drastic facelift.
“It doesn’t really matter. We’ll be fine with whatever we get,” said Bradshaw
Gone are offensive line stalwarts Rich Seubert and Shaun O’Hara, wideout Steve Smith and tight end Kevin Boss.
Jacobs said the faces are a lot younger, but assured Giants fans they’ll still be among the best units in the league.
“I think that people are overlooking the offense. We have a lot of talent and we have a lot of young guys,” Jacobs said, acknowledging fans’ concerns over the Giants’ stagnant off-season transactions. “People can be down on us, I guess, because of the two-week free agency, because of the lockout or whatever the reason but I think we are going to be great. The team we will put out there on every Sunday on offense, defense and special teams is going to be one of the best in the league.”
If the Giants are going to break its two-year spell of postseason dryness the running game will have to compensate for the young wideouts and a starting defense that has skill but lacks depth.
Should the Giants reach its magic number in the rushing game, life will be made much easier for the rest of the team. Bradshaw agreed with Jacobs in saying the running game will be the backbone of the offense and also thinks 2,000 combined yards is the key.
“We know we could have done better and we always can. We want to be dependent on our running game for us to win and we’ll give it our all,” Bradshaw said. “All we can do is play our game and go out and show them. We’ve proved people wrong plenty of times. That’s our chance to do it — this coming Sunday.”
Hynoski ready to lead the way
The Giants running game features a two-headed monster, but the real beast could be rookie fullback Henry Hynoski. Undrafted out of Pitt, Hynoski will be the main blocker for Jacobs and Bradshaw. Once a former prep star himself, rushing for over 7,000 yards and scoring 100+ touchdowns, Hynoski is now a throwback fullback who never carries the ball. He only had 37 rushing attempts and 40 receptions during his college career and will probably see even fewer touches as a Giant — and he’s OK with that.
“When Brandon or Ahmad or Danny Ware gets those touchdowns, I feel like I am getting those touchdowns,” Hynoski said. “It is gratifying for me and I don’t care what I have to do as long as the team wins and I am doing my part.”
Hynoski said being overlooked in this year’s draft just added fuel to his fire and is ready to take that frustration it out on opponents.
“The whole free agent thing just made me more determined this summer when I was training. I never worked so hard in my life to improve myself as a player. I just want to go out and prove a lot of people wrong,” said Hynoski, who added that fullbacks already have to be a little “different” to do what they do. “You have to be crazy to do what a fullback does, something has to be off. You have to have that right mentality and be ready to hit somebody every single play.”
Follow beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8 for Giants news all season long.