Giants rookie RB Andre Williams makes a good first impression at Hall of Fame Game
CANTON, Ohio - Andre Williams was so focused on getting into the end zone that when he finally made it, his mind went blank. It was as if he hadn't thought beyond it.
That's just the kind of short-sightedness the Giants are looking for long-term from their fourth-round pick, the 230-pound running back from Boston College who was not only the most impressive rookie to play with the starting offense in Sunday night's preseason opener but the most dynamic offensive weapon of the night.
Williams ran for 48 yards on seven carries, including the 3-yard touchdown run in the first quarter that gave the Giants the lead in a 17-13 win over the Bills in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.
"It gives me confidence," Williams said of his debut. "I feel like I'm supposed to be here, I'm part of the team now."
He'll be an important part this season. He and starter Rashad Jennings -- who caught three passes from Eli Manning for 20 yards -- are the new faces of the running back position. And with David Wilson's future uncertain pending Monday's examination of his surgically repaired neck, those two could be the keys to fixing the offensive woes from last season.
"I feel like I'm built to run the ball, to play football and carry the ball," Williams said. "Once I tuck it away, I do feel comfortable. I feel like I'm doing what I was built to do. It's fun out there and I'm just having fun."
The Giants' offense wasn't at first. The starters were on the field for three series. Three very different series.
They started with a three-and-out. They followed that with a no-huddle set that was supposed to signal the future but wound up reflecting the past. Manning tried to elude a pass rush and spun right into Bills lineman Kyle Williams. Manning fumbled the ball and it was recovered after a scramble by former Giant Keith Rivers. The Bills converted the turnover into a field goal and a 3-0 lead.
The third series, though, left the Giants brimming with optimism. Against the Bills' second-unit defense, the Giants had a 12-play, 80-yard drive. Seventy-two of those yards came on the ground, 37 of them from Williams. He scored the first TD of the preseason on a run up the middle behind a crushing block from fullback Henry Hynoski.
The Giants knew Williams was capable of that kind of physical straight-ahead run when they drafted him. What he showed on the play just before the touchdown is what has them truly excited. He took a handoff to the left and beat the defense to the corner, turning it upfield for a 21-yard gain. "He ran with speed and power, seemed to hit the hole well and got the ball outside," Tom Coughlin said. "He seemed to do some good things."
Eventually, so did the starting offense. "I think it was big for our offense to get something going, get a few first downs, get in a rhythm, get some completions and get that scoring drive was good," Manning said. "I'm glad we had that one last opportunity to get something going there."
The Bills led 13-10, but Giants backup Ryan Nassib threw a 73-yard TD pass to Corey Washington in the fourth to win it.
The Giants still have four more preseason games in which to iron out any wrinkles they showed. Coughlin, who referred to this game as a "full-speed practice," seemed happy with what the new offense was able to accomplish . . . even if his expectations weren't all that high to begin with. "It's the first game, it's the first game," he repeated for effect. "I'm glad we got the short snap tonight. We got the center-quarterback exchange. So that was a plus."