Just two games into the 2017 NFL season, the New York Giants find themselves in a hole. Losing to the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions by a combined score of 43-13, the team has struggled mightily. The offense has been nearly non-existent, forcing the defense, that was supposed to be one of the best in the league, to spend too much time on the field, leading to fatigue and, as a result, points.
Part of the reason for the anemic offensive numbers is an atrocious run game. Through the first two weeks of the season, the Giants rank dead last in the NFL in rushing with a total of 97 yards on 30 attempts – just 3.2 yards per carry. Without the ability to establish a rushing attack, combined with Odell Beckham missing the team’s opener and playing just over 30 snaps in the second game, defenses have been able to focus solely on the Giants’ passing game, shutting down any hope of the team moving the ball down the field through the air.
A poor run game is nothing new for the Giants. The team hasn’t had a 1000-yard rusher since Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 1,015 yards back in 2012. In fact, even in the G-Men’s impressive 11-5 season a year ago, their leading rusher Rashad Jennings recorded only 593 yards with just three touchdowns. Jennings averaged just 3.3 yards per carry last season, in no way aided by the team’s extremely poor offensive line and run blocking.
While the offensive line struggles continue to plague the Giants, with the team making no changes to the unit during the offseason, the running game may not be entirely doomed. Although the team seems reluctant to moving around any of the line’s starters, they seem much less hesitant to make a move when it comes to the guy carrying the ball, which may be what the team has to do in order to save their lacking offense.
To start the year, the Giants named second-year man Paul Perkins the starting running back. Perkins, a fifth-round draft pick out of UCLA, impressed the team in his debut season in 2016. He finished the year with 456 yards on the ground, averaging about 4.1 yards per carry. Perkins did not see significant playing time until the team’s 13th game of the season against the Dallas Cowboys. From that point on, he seemed to win over the starting job from Jennings and got the majority of the carries moving forward.
Fast forward to 2017, and Perkins has seemingly taken huge steps backwards. On 14 carries this season, Perkins has mustered only 26 total yards – good for less than two yards per carry. He has less yards than both of the Giants’ two backup running backs, Shane Vereen (28 yards) and Orleans Darkwa (31 yards), despite having more carries than the two combined. This is simply unacceptable for a team with aspirations of winning the Super Bowl.
The best option for the Giants moving forward would be to instead give Orleans Darkwa the starting job. Darkwa has tallied 31 yards on just six carries this year – a little over five yards per carry. Thus far, the team has seemed hesitant to use him. Against the Lions on Monday, Darkwa broke off an 11-yard gain on his very first attempt early in the second quarter. Despite the impressive gain, he would not get another carry until the third quarter, and would finish with only three total attempts.
Darkwa has shown flashes of potential in the past, but has seemingly just never been able to win over the coaches enough to garner a start. While the Giants’ disaster of an offensive line will limit anyone from making much of an impact out of the backfield, it couldn’t possibly hurt at this point to try switching up the ball carrier. If the Giants expect to win any games this season, they will have to avoid becoming a one-dimension pass-only offense by establishing a respectable run game.
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