Need a big play? The Giants have the guy for the job.
Rashad Jennings has been the go-to player when the team is most in search of a boost. He's been at the epicenter of some of this season's most definitive plays.
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Last week it was a 51-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown in which he broke three tackles, one with a stiff-arm. The week before, it was a blocked punt he sent out of the end zone against Washington that sparked the team to its first win.StoryCentral Islip grad added to 49ers rosterStoryGiants have experience vs. mobile QBs
This two-game winning streak the Giants are on has largely been a Jennings production.
"It's being a pro," he said of his ability to raise his game when it is most required. "When your name is called, a lot of times I think people think you are giving lip service when you say it, but I'm about trying to win. If I can be utilized on special teams, use me there. If I can be utilized in the backfield pounding the ball, use me there. If I can be out of the backfield catching the ball, use me there. I'm here to win."
Jennings was even a key player in the deciding sequence against the Cowboys in Week 1 when he didn't score a late touchdown on what turned out to be bad advice from Eli Manning. Had he converted one of those runs into six points, he'd likely be 3-for-3 in spearheading Giants wins.
Outside, Odell Beckham Jr. may get the pub and Manning may get the credit (or the blame). But in the locker room and on the coaching staff, they know that Jennings has become someone they can rely on to step up in big situations.
"He's able to understand when a team needs something like we did in Buffalo," center Weston Richburg said. "We all understood we needed something to happen. I mean, he could easily have stepped out of bounds and gotten a first down and kept the drive going, but he jumped over the guy's tackle attempt and threw a big stiff-arm. That kind of shows that he understands what we need to get the game put out of their reach. He was able to give that to us, which was really cool to see."
One of the things that makes this year -- Jennings' second with the Giants -- different from last year is that neither he nor anyone else is waiting to be told to do it. Richburg spoke about players 'spurring" themselves and being more "self-governing" than they were a year ago. Jennings has been one of those players.
"I think mature players understand that something needs to be done and you can't rely on coaches to tell you it's time," Richburg said. "You need to be able to understand when is the time to really perform and make something happen."
Jennings has. Now he wants to bring the entire offense up to that level when the Giants face the 49ers on Sunday night.
"We look at it as stepping on the pedal and continuing to grow as a unit," he said. "We have not yet been able to hit on all cylinders as a team. That's something we're preparing to do and look forward to seeing what it's going to look like when we get a chance to execute it. It's getting closer. We're standing in the body shop making sure we're going to have the opportunity to press the pedal. This is a good unit, good team, good character guys. We're all pros and want to win."
Jennings has helped them do that the last two weeks. If the Giants are able to turn this season around after an 0-2 start, his recent plays undoubtedly will be thought of as turning points.
"That was a big play in the game for us, and it was good to have him make it," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said of Jennings' long catch-and-run. "It was a challenging play in the game; it's not like he just came up and made an ordinary play. He went above the X's and O's there and came through for us and provided a nice lift when we needed it."
"It's awesome," right tackle Marshall Newhouse said. "To see something like that, especially at a critical time in the game, it lifted us. That was a big, big deal."
Jennings' plays stood out. Newhouse said it would be ideal if they didn't.
"I think he's comfortable being that guy, but at the same time, you can count on two hands the guys who have that potential," he said. "At any time a guy can go up and make an explosive play. It's happened to have been him two weeks in a row, but there are a number of guys we expect that from.
"Hopefully you want to normalize those kind of results. When you play division opponents a second time, when there are big games, and hopefully in the playoffs, you want those things to become normal and routine, even though they're not. Even though they are special plays. But we have the talent here to do that and make them at least feel routine."
Until then, Jennings' timely accomplishments will stand out and the team will know it can rely on him.
"I know I have higher expectations [for myself] than anyone in this organization could ever put on me," Jennings said. "I think a lot of guys can say that. "