Andre Williams' four games as the Giants' starting running back might not have been as effective and productive as many hoped. But the rookie said he thinks the opportunity will help him as his career develops and as he returns to a backup spot behind Rashad Jennings.
"It's definitely been a positive experience to be able to get in and start the games," Williams said. "Now I can use that film to go back and learn where I made my mistakes and take steps to get better and move forward."
In the four games Jennings missed with a sprained left MCL, Williams had 60 carries for 165 yards (2.75 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. He also caught three passes for 29 yards, although one of them accounted for 24 of those yards.
Williams was more productive on a carry-by-carry basis when he was the second running back in the rotation, coming in to spell Jennings and getting some carries late in games when he was fresh and defenses started to sag. His powerful running style makes him like a baseball closer with a blazing fastball.
In the last two games Jennings played, Williams had 35 carries for 131 yards. That's 3.74 yards per carry, almost a full yard more than he managed when he got more snaps and more chances. He also scored two touchdowns in those two games and had his longest run of the season mixed in there, a 23-yarder against Washington.
"I think it's a challenge to be more productive with less reps," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said when asked if the demotion could help Williams' numbers moving forward. "We'll see. This is the first game Rashad Jennings is going to be back, so we'll see how he does. Andre Williams has been reliable for us and we are going to continue to use him."
Jennings said he saw improvements from Williams as he gained more experience, including more patience last week against the Seahawks. He gave the rookie a parable that compared playing running back to fishing. If you pull the line when a fish is nibbling on the bait, he said, you won't catch anything. But if you wait for the fish to take the hook, it's all yours.
Those are the types of stories that Williams might have missed the most while Jennings was gone. Although the veteran was around the team during the week, he was not on the field or sideline during games and could not pass advice along to Williams.
While the rest of the Giants are excited to have Jennings back so he can run with the ball, Williams is excited to have him back so he can provide real-time wisdom.
"He wasn't there on game day to let me know what he's seeing," Williams said. "Just to have him back on the field is a bonus.''
Jennings figures to shoulder much of the workload against the 49ers. In the week leading up to the game, coach Tom Coughlin first said he would try to limit Jennings' snaps, but as the game drew closer, he revamped that philosophy.
"It might be 50 [carries], if we could win," Coughlin said Friday. "At this point, we need a win."
That wouldn't leave much room for Williams, but the rookie undoubtedly will have a role in the game and the rest of the season (Saturday the Giants put their other running back, Peyton Hillis, on injured reserve with a concussion and signed linebacker Justin Anderson from their practice squad). Williams might become the Giants' starting running back again, perhaps on his own merits and not as an injury replacement.
If he does become a starter again, his last four games will have served him and the team well -- even if it didn't work out for the Giants while the games were taking place.