Giants must abandon four-running back rotation
Enough with this rotation system the Giants have used at running back, to no avail. They have one of the worst rushing attacks in the league, averaging a miserable 88.1 yards per game. Only the Chargers, Lions and Browns are worse, and the inability to maintain even a semblance of a running game is undermining the Giants’ offense.
What makes the situation even more confounding is coordinator Ben McAdoo’s insistence on getting four running backs — Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen — involved. That ignores the time-tested theory that you can’t spread the ball around like that and expect to be effective. It doesn’t work. It has never worked. And the Giants need to stop messing around and pare down the rotation to no more than three and be willing to go with the hot hand.
The Giants won the Super Bowl with a three-man rotation of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw in 2007 and with Bradshaw, Jacobs and Danny Ware in 2011. The latter trio had 17 rushing touchdowns in the regular season and averaged 116.5 yards per game in the postseason. This year’s group has run for only three TDs, less than half the league average of 8.4, and none of the quartet has come close to a 100-yard game. Not quite the fearsome foursome the Giants hoped for.
So what’s a coach to do? Well, maybe nothing. Or at least nothing different.
Tom Coughlin bristled when I asked if he feels the need to ditch what appears to be an attempt to force-feed his rotation rather than go with the more traditional approach of a lead back, a primary backup and a third-down back.
“You know what? That’s not the reason the run game is not going, okay? I’ll just tell you point blank,” Coughlin said. “One guy is used in one capacity, the other three guys are used according to all first-down situations.
“Sometimes it comes down to who can pass block better than the other. Believe me, I’d love to stand here and tell you that, ‘Yeah, that’s the reason we’re not making any yards running.’ But it’s not, it’s not. Now they’re not always doing the right thing or making the right cut, but that hasn’t been a major, major issue for us. And for a long time, it was only two plus Vereen. Darkwa wasn’t a consideration until, I don’t know, four, five games back when he did get an opportunity. And he showed well when he was given that opportunity.”
Darkwa has been the most consistently productive runner, so maybe it’s time for him to play a more prominent role. Williams has struggled most of the season, and he still doesn’t run instinctively enough to create yardage when he needs to. Williams is averaging only 2.8 yards a carry, while Darkwa has averaged 4.1. But Darkwa’s playing time has been inconsistent, at best; he had only two carries against Washington on Nov. 29, and eight against the Jets. He gained only 29 yards on the 10 attempts, although he came close to breaking one for a score — “a house call,” as he put it — against the Jets but stumbled as he was making a cut on a 6-yard run.
To their credit, all of the running backs are toeing the company line and not complaining about the division of labor. But Coughlin needs to make a decision: Do they continue to rotate them, which prevents anyone from developing the rhythm that all running backs prefer? Or do the coaches cut down the rotation to Jennings and Darkwa and make Vereen strictly the third-down back, a role he thrived in with the Patriots?
Your move, coach.
You know where we stand.