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Patience, pause and pop: Giants rookie Andre Williams adjusts running style

Giants rookie running back Andre Williams carries the

Giants rookie running back Andre Williams carries the ball against the Dallas Cowboys in the second half at AT&T Stadium on October 19, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. Credit: Getty Images

The Giants loved the way Andre Williams carried the ball in college: full-speed, straight-ahead, destructive running. It's why they drafted him in the fourth round in May and why he is on pace to become the most-used rookie running back for the team since Tom Coughlin became coach in 2004.

But it's also one of the reasons he has struggled since becoming the Giants' starter.

"I'm always about accelerating," Williams told Newsday on Monday. "In college and in high school, that's what I watched a lot of other backs do. They got from 0 to 60 as quick as possible and it caught people off guard. But it's a little different in this scheme. It's all about timing and being in the right place for things to open up the way they should. That's what I'm working on right now."

As Williams prepares for what likely will be his third start -- Rashad Jennings is making progress with a sprained MCL but does not seem to be a sure thing to play Monday night against the Colts -- he and the people around him are focusing on a word that was never in his football vocabulary until now.

Patience.

"All young players, they have a tendency to really get in a hurry, but I think that he is getting more patient as he continues to go," running backs coach Craig Johnson said of Williams last week. "What he is going through, the process of right now, getting more carries and so on, is timing and rhythm with the offensive line. That's the bottom line. They block in a certain rhythm and a certain pace, he runs at a certain rhythm and a certain pace. Everybody's trying to mesh that together to make sure we have an effective running game."

Even Jennings has been preaching the pause, that moment that looks like hesitation but is actually there to allow the linemen to create space and allow the running back to read where the best avenue through the defense will open.

"I tell him," Jennings said, "you don't necessarily want to be quick to the hole, you want to be quick through the hole."

That's something Jennings was good at. Before he was hurt, he was among the league's leaders in rushing yards. His 176 yards against the Texans in Week 3 is still the highest single-game performance of the season. Williams also has other examples he's watched.

"[The Steelers'] Le'Veon Bell, he's so patient in the hole," Williams said. "I'm like, 'Man, how are people not catching him?' But the way it's designed, that's the way he's supposed to do it."

In the two games before Williams was pressed into a starting role, he totaled 131 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries. In his two games as a starter, he had the same number of carries for 110 yards and no touchdowns.

Williams and Jennings have just about the same number of carries this season, 89 and 91, respectively. Williams is averaging 3.1 yards per carry; Jennings is more than a yard better at 4.4. And Jennings doesn't even have a run of more than 20 yards on the season. Williams has two.

Some of that lost production has to do with the offensive line, as well. Their play has slipped noticeably in the last two games.

"I think we've definitely blocked better in past weeks than we have the last couple, but I know we're capable of it," Williams said. "Sometimes [the holes] are, sometimes they're not. I don't always make the perfect read, but the hole isn't always there. Sometimes you have to make something out of nothing."

And sometimes you have to wait, even if it goes against every instinct in your 230-pound frame and against the whispers of every coach from peewee to college who helped push you to the NFL.

"I really think that's more of his style, he's more of a north-south, downhill runner," Johnson said. "That's what he's done, so when he gets with a lineman, of course he's going to have his tempo and rhythm with them . . . He's going to find out how hard he can hit a hole, how he can set up his blocks and obviously he's going to do it the way he runs. I think as he continues with more rhythm, more tempo, I think all of that stuff will come together."

The Giants seem to have plenty of patience for Williams. Now it's up to him to find the same patience in himself.

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