Giants running back Andre Williams runs past inside linebacker Paul...

Giants running back Andre Williams runs past inside linebacker Paul Worrilow #55 of the Atlanta Falcons at MetLife Stadium on Oct. 5, 2014. Credit: Mike Stobe

Tom Coughlin has a phobia when it comes to rookie running backs. That's why in all the years he's been the coach of the Giants he has never had one who carried the ball 20 or more times in any game. Not Brandon Jacobs, not Ahmad Bradshaw, and certainly not David Wilson, who made Coughlin squeamish.

They're too unpredictable. They don't block well. They fumble. You have to go back to Ron Dayne in November 2000 to find the last time a Giants rookie had more than 20 carries in a game.

Well, that all changed on Sunday. Andre Williams filled in for the injured Rashad Jennings in the third quarter against the Falcons and wound up carrying the ball 20 times for 65 yards. He also caught two passes for 18 yards. And this week, when the Giants face the Eagles in what is inarguably the most important game they have played since the 2013 opener, it will be Williams lining up as the starting running back against the first-place Eagles.

How does Coughlin feel about that?

Surprisingly well.

"I am very confident," he said Monday when it became clear that Williams' role was about to be amplified.

So is Williams.

"I think I had a pretty solid game," he said. "I hope that I'm definitely building faith, having the coaches build faith in me and my ability to play on the field."

He had 15 carries the previous week against Washington, 20 against the Falcons. He didn't blink when asked if he could handle double that number, potentially 40.

"If it's that type of game," Williams said, "I'm down for it."

Williams has that kind of quiet coolness that previous Giants running backs didn't always exhibit. The Giants often looked to players such as Jacobs and Bradshaw for emotional leadership, for rah-rahing and firebranding. With Williams, they just look for him to run. Around, over or through.

According to Pro Football Focus, a service that analyzes NFL statistics, Williams picked up almost half of his 65 rushing yards (49.2 percent) against Atlanta after initial contact. He ran right over linebacker Paul Worrilow for his 3-yard touchdown, and he impressed Coughlin when he converted a third-and-7 late in the game.

"A lot of that was on his own outside the flank of our blockers," Coughlin said. "He was able to pick up that first down. That was really indicative of people trying to tackle the ball and get the ball out, and he made that play."

It's those kinds of plays that foster trust. But Williams is still a rookie. He was in pass protection on the play when Eli Manning was unable to step up and deliver a pass to an open Odell Beckham Jr. in the third quarter.

"When you have a young guy, you really get into great, great detail even more about pass protection," Coughlin said. "He has done a good job when he has been in there. He is going to have to do even better."

Although he caught both passes thrown to him against the Falcons, he's had difficulty in that regard in the past. He said he's also adjusting to the speed of the Giants' no-huddle sets that require him to process information more quickly.

"With more time and experience," he said, "it's definitely coming to me better."

He's about to get a whole lot more time and experience. Probably more than any rookie back has under Coughlin.

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