Perhaps underutilized, there is no denying that running back Orleans Darkwa is one of the few bright spots for the New York Giants this year. Even with limited opportunities, he has emerged as the best rusher on the roster.
And in fact, the no-name fourth-year running back stacks up pretty well against some of the elite in the NFL.
Few saw this coming. The consensus was that Paul Perkins and Shane Vereen would get the majority of the reps. Instead, Darkwa is the one consistent positive out of the backfield and also brings the advantage of being a good blocker.
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Over the past three games, Darkwa has totaled 176 rushing yards, a number that exceeds his output in 2016 (111 rushing yards) and 2015 (153 rushing yards) despite there still being seven games left in the year. That he has more rushing yards this year (415 yards) than his first three years in the league combined when he had a grand total of 287 yards shows a player not only developing and maturing but also making the most of his reps.
He is doing so behind an offensive line that struggled in the first half of the season to open space for the backfield. A physical runner, Darkwa has thrived after contact and seems a perfect fit given the circumstances around this offense.
“I mean, really it’s with the line. Once they can get me a hole or something that I can see, I just try to put my head down and get my legs churning. I think that’s something that I’ve tried to pride myself in,” Darkwa said. “Try to get north-south as much as possible, as fast as possible and once there’s a guy that gets his hands on me, just keep your legs churning. So, that’s something I’ve tried to pride myself on and not just me, but all the backs have done a great job with that.”
Even as he produced so well, the argument can be made that Darkwa deserves more carries.
After running for 117 yards on 21 carries in the Week 5 win over the Denver Broncos, the Giants went on to give Darkwa just nine carries the following week in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Over the last three games, including the Seattle game, he has a total of 39 carries.
Considering that he is averaging 4.5 yards per carry during that trifecta of games, it does seem like Darkwa deserves more carries.
A further look at the numbers supports that.
Darkwa is sixth in the league among eligible running backs with 5.1 yards per carry. Of the league’s top 10 leading rushers (in total net yardage), only the Kansas City Chiefs Kareem Hunt (5.2 yards per carry) and the New Orleans Saints Melvin Ingram (4.8 yards per carry) are getting more bang for the buck. That puts Darkwa’s production ahead of some of the best running backs in the league.
Even as his team sits at a disappointing and shocking 1-8, Darkwa is one of the few positives to emerge from this season, a potential building block for a very shaky offense.
“I mean, at the end of the day, I’m all about winning. I cherish the opportunity, but at the end of the day, I feel like I’m not doing enough to get the wins on the board,” Darkwa said. “We got to do more as a team to get these wins and I feel like if there’s anything I can do to improve as a back and improve my game to help the team win, that’s what I’m trying to improve.”