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Orleans Darkwa hopes Giants will include him in running back mix

New York Giants running back Orleans Darkwa goes

New York Giants running back Orleans Darkwa goes up and over Cincinnati Bengals middle linebacker Nico Johnson (52), nose tackle Kwame Geathers (76) and outside linebacker Marquis Flowers (53) for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Cincinnati, Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. Photo Credit: AP / Frank Victores

When they worked out together in Miami during the offseason, Orleans Darkwa greeted Rashad Jennings every day with the same message:

"Look, I'm coming for you," the second-year running back would tell his veteran teammate at the same position.

On Friday night, he may have closed the gap a bit.

Darkwa was one of the few rays of production for the Giants' offense in the preseason opener against the Bengals. He ran for 52 yards on nine carries, accounting for nearly half of the 106 rushing yards the team had on just about one-third of their 24 carries. He had a 20-yard run and a 1-yard touchdown dive and, perhaps more importantly, looked assured picking up blitzes.

Yes, it was against mostly second- and third-teamers for the Bengals. But while most observers spent the offseason wondering how a three-man backfield rotation of Jennings, Andre Williams and newly signed Shane Vereen would work, Darkwa was intent on making it a four-man ensemble. Or, if need be, pushing someone else out of the mix.

"That's the main goal for me," Darkwa said. "Obviously, I know special teams are going to be a big factor, so I'm never going to lose sight of that. But as far as being able to join that rotation, I feel like I'm capable of doing it and that's what I'm here to show."

He started last year, stepping into the backfield with Jennings injured in the next-to-last game of the season. Against the Rams that day, he had four carries for 21 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown, and caught two passes for 17 yards.

He's back for his second season looking for more. And if Jennings is at all threatened, he isn't showing it.

"You have no idea how happy and proud I was to see the growth in him," Jennings said. "He is a sleek runner. He can do everything you ask him to do. He's a very productive player. I think he's a guy who can make his way and be productive on the roster."

It remains a crowded backfield, though, and Darkwa will need more performances like Friday's to crack through.

"I know my role," he said of being the fourth horseman, "but I'm never going to be complacent as far as my goals going into the season. I know I have to go out and show my worth as far as making the team and being on the roster, but I'll never be complacent. I'm always going to strive for more."

Right now, "more" may mean knocking one of the big three out of the way. The Giants are heavily invested in that trio, but Jennings may be the most expendable in terms of contract and need. If it comes to that, anyway. It hasn't. Yet.

"I look up to him a lot and he's taught me a lot," Darkwa said of Jennings. "I respect him and all the running backs. But at the same time, I want to go out there and compete."

And keep reminding Jennings and the rest of the world that he's coming for him.

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