Giants again have crowded backfield in search of run game
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) The New York Giants failed to find a running game with a crowded backfield last season, and the numbers are worse in training camp.
Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, Andre Williams and Orleans Darkwa have been joined by fifth-round draft pick Paul Perkins, veteran Bobby Rainey and free agent Marshaun Coprich in the competition to make the roster.
Doling out the carries is not easy, and the running backs need to put them to good use.
With a little more than a week to go until the preseason opener against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium, Jennings seems to have the inside track on being the No. 1 back.
The eight-year veteran finished last season strong and led the Giants with career highs of 863 yards rushing on 195 attempts, a 4.4 yard average.
However, it marked the third straight year New York failed to generate a 1,000-yard rusher, and the fourth in the past five. The Giants rushing totals in missing the playoffs the past four seasons have been 1,609, 1,603, 1,332 and 1,862 yards.
Running backs coach Craig Johnson doesn't want a running game by committee. He would rather have one back get hot and ride him.
That's what happened with Jennings late last season.
''We allowed him to do some stuff,'' Johnson said. ''We're going to see if we can find the rhythm with a pair and maybe a third guy and, obviously, if it was like we finished the year, like Rashad finished, that would take care of a lot of problems. At the end of the year, he was probably playing as well as any back in football.''
If the running game can get going, that would take some of the pressure off Eli Manning and the receivers, who carried the offense.
Getting the running game going is going to take some time and help from the line, which has all five starters back.
Jennings isn't worried about having limited carries with so many backs in camp.
''Every play is its own play,'' he said. ''It's a brand new play, a brand new situation, a brand new down and distance, it's a brand new culture of that play. How to fit in the triangles with the pass, how to fit in the gap scheme in the zone on everything that you're doing so when you're in, you're just taking advantage of the play that you're in and being fully 100 percent on where your feet are at per play.''
Vereen, who took over the role as the third-down back last season and had 59 catches for 494 yards and four touchdowns, isn't worried about the numbers game.
''I like having a lot of guys in the room because everyone has a different style and everyone brings something new to the table so you can learn a lot from that,'' he said.
Perkins might have the most to learn. The former UCLA product missed most of the organized team activities while finishing school, so he is playing catch-up.
Coach Ben McAdoo was impressed with his effort on special teams on Wednesday. Johnson said he is smart and picking things up.
''I've seen flashes, which is always a good thing you want to see out of a young player like him,'' Johnson said. ''He's made a couple of nice catches. He's had a couple of good bursts at the line of scrimmage. Like a lot of rookies, he's unsure, he's a little hesitant. But that's what happens when you have all the things that are going on with a rookie.''
Williams, who led the team in rushing in 2014 with 721 yards, is coming off a so-so-season and needs to pick up his game.
NOTES: WR Odell Beckham Jr. did some jogging on Wednesday and is getting closer to returning after Monday's lower leg injury, when he was cleated on a pass play. ... First-round draft pick Eli Apple still has a nasty habit of grabbing receivers in coverage. Cornerbacks coach Tim Walton said they are working on that, using post-practice video to point out what would be flags in the NFL. ''The more he does it, the more he gets comfortable with it,'' Walton said. ... TE Matt LaCosse left practice to his right knee examined after a catch, and later returned.
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