When the Giants went over the film from Sunday’s loss to the Vikings, there were at least a few plays that brought them joy. Each time fullback Eli Penny carried the ball, usually with success, the rest of the team guffawed out loud.
“Everybody was laughing and making fun of me,” Penny said on Tuesday with his ever-present grin. “But it’s really not that funny to me because I know I can do it.”
On Thursday, the joke may be over. Saquon Barkley may not play and his backup Wayne Gallman is out with a concussion, which means the Giants’ best option at running back may not be a running back at all. At least not according to the roster.
Penny may wind up being the bell cow in this game against the Patriots.
“We list him as a fullback, but when we put him in at tailback we expect him to do tailback things,” Pat Shurmur said. “I think he’s a good runner. He’s got good vision. He’s got good collision balance. To this point, when we’ve handed it to him, he’s secured it well. Those are all the elements you are looking for in a running back.”
On Sunday he had three carries for 15 yards and caught one pass for 9 yards.
“It kind of reminded me of my glory days in high school and college,” Penny said. “Unfortunately we didn’t get the W, but it was a good feeling getting the ball and being productive with it, too.”
If Barkley and Gallman are out, the only true running back on the roster would be rookie Jon Hilliman, who was on the practice squad two weeks ago. The Giants may promote rookie Austin Walter from the practice squad before the game.
Penny could be their best option as both a ball-carrier and in pass protection. Besides, how could the Giants resist a backfield of "Danny Dimes" and Eli Penny? The Patriots may have to play their nickel defense against that alignment.
Penny said he is always “clowning” with the coaching staff about getting carries, reminding them that he was a traditional tailback in college at Idaho. He ran for 1,748 yards on 385 carries.
While his runs elicited laughter from Giants teammates – mostly because they knew how much he pesters the coaches for them rather than because of any comic element to the actual plays – there was one who came away very impressed.
“He was doing his thing,” Barkley said. “That’s something you love. [Fullbacks] may not get all the love and the shine and the credit, but for him to get in there and get back to his running back days… I think he did a really good job.”
He may be asked to do it again.