With the departure of Brandon Jacobs to the San Francisco 49ers this offseason, the New York Giants will spend a significant portion of training camp searching for a viable backup running back heading into the 2012 campaign. With sixth-year veteran Ahmad Bradshaw as the clear-cut starter, there are several players that will compete for playing time in a backup role.
This offseason, the team used its' first-round draft pick on running back David Wilson out of Virginia Tech. However, veteran D.J. Ware appears to have the upper hand in securing the backup role, at least for the time being.
D.J. Ware stands 6'0" while weighing in at 225 lbs. He has good size and runs the ball hard in between the tackles. However, he is not particularly fast and is neither a big play threat nor a great receiver out of the backfield.
That being said, Ware is still extremely valuable to Big Blue's passing attack. His emergence as the favorite to take over the backup running back role is heavily dependent upon his advanced knowledge of the offense compared to that of his competitors. He is not as explosive as David Wilson or as fast as Da'Rel Scott, but he has been around long enough to become an asset as a pass-blocker. The team used Ware last season primarily in passing situations and he performed well in that role. Furthermore, Ware had a few nice runs on draw plays out of the shoutgun, which proved that he is capable of making the occasional big play.
D.J. Ware's biggest competitor for the backup running back role is this years first-round draft pick David Wilson. Wilson is a fast, explosive player that was used in a multitude of roles during his three seasons at Virginia Tech. He earned 4,349 all-purpose yards for his career, while integrating himself as an indispensable aspect of the team's rushing, passing, and return games. His diversity is a major reason why general manger Jerry Reese selected Wilson with the team's first-round pick. In a post-draft interview, Reese stated the following:
"He’s fast. He’s productive. He can do anything you want him to do. He can catch the ball. He can return kicks. I think he was overall ACC Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year there. He’s an early-out junior. Terrific football player."
Da'Rel Scott is widely reported to be the fastest player on the Giants' roster (4.34 40-yard dash). Although he showed flashes of brilliance during the preseason last year, Scott only saw five carries in the regular season and he averaged a mere 3.2 yards per carry. However, because of the NFL lockout, this offseason is the second-year player out of Maryland's first opportunity to go through the full gauntlet of workouts and OTA's. With a year of experience under his belt, Da'Rel Scott could become a contributor at some point this season.
Andre Brown is perhaps the biggest mystery on the Giants' running back depth chart. In his four-year career at NC State, he averaged over 4.4 yards per carry each season. However, after being drafted by the Giants in the fourth-round of the 2009 NFL Draft, Brown ruptured his Achilles tendon in training camp the same year. He was waived by the Giants the following offseason.
After bouncing around the league in 2010, Brown was brought back by the Giants and spent most of last season on the practice squad. Although Brown saw no regular season action with Big Blue in 2011, he has has shown the capability to be both a rushing and receiving threat out of the backfield in practice. If demonstrate an understanding of the offense, Brown could make the 53-man roster.
The situation at backup running back will be one of the most contested positional battles throughout training camp. There are several players that each have their own strengths and weaknesses that they bring to the table. However, D.J. Ware is the only player being considered that has any significant experience in that role. Look for him to see the majority of the snaps as the second running back on the depth chart during the beginning of the season.
However, as David Wilson, Da'Rel Scott, and Andre Brown each learn the playbook and pass protection schemes more thoroughly, Ware will most likely see a decreased role within the offense as the season progresses.
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