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New York Giants Running Game: Digging Deeper

January 18th, 2013 at 1:00 PM
By Kyle Langan

In 2011, the New York Giants finished dead last in the NFL in rushing before surging to the tune of over 160 yards per game in the final six wins of the season. Just prior to 2011, Ahmad Bradshaw was named the starting back with Brandon Jacobs relegated to a backup role. In 2012, Jacobs was let go and the Giants drafted David Wilson out of Virginia. 

Wilson may have fit the "best player available" tag at the 32nd slot of the first-round last spring, but his selection may also be indicative of the fact that the Giants were not satisfied with their rushing attack. Particularly as it relations to the running back position.

Whatever the case may be, fact remains that General Manager Jerry Reese spent a first-round pick on a running back because he felt, to some degree, that an upgrade could be made.

Recently, Pro Football Focus came out with a statistic called pulse rate for running backs. Pulse rate measures the running backs yards per carry while eliminating runs over 10 yards (spikes in the pulse). 

Before delving into the rankings, consider the number of times Ahmad Bradshaw went for more than 10 yards on a run. The answer? Not very many. Although an exact number didn't come to mind, the eye test tells you that by comparison, Bradshaw does not make very many "flash" plays.

As it turned out, Bradshaw was actually 8th overall in Pulse average, gaining nearly 874 yards on runs of fewer than 10 yards. He Averaged 3.95 yards on those carries.

To our surprise, Andre Brown was 4th, gaining 4.07 yards per carry, but on merely 51 carries (to Bradshaw's 221). Our takeaway from this was that this is an indictment to Bradshaw (and perhaps exactly why the Giants chose to draft David Wilson).

C.J. Spiller, whom many Giants fans wanted in 2010 and can be compared to Wilson a bit in style, had the second highest pulse rate in the league at 4.23 on 207 carries. And what makes that so impressive is that Spiller had 16 runs of at least 15 yards, where a big chuck of his yardage came from during his impressive 2012 campaign. 

The difference between a back like Spiller and Bradshaw is that while both can matriculate the ball upfield, one can break a run for 70 or 80 yards and go the distance. 

If a running play is well blocked enough to get four or five yards (Bradshaw had a 4.5 yard average overall on 1st down), why not 70 or 80? There is not much else that the much maligned offensive line can do once they open the running lane. The back has to create some opportunities for himself.

While many Giants fans lush for a mauling offensive linemen to help boost the rushing attack (totally for it), perhaps at least part of the solution is already on the roster: David Wilson.

Wilson may not be the "workhorse" that Bradshaw is, but he may be the field stretching threat that changes the Giants offense moving forward. More than anything, the Giants must figure out some way to execute on their identity better in 2013: which is a run first team.

In 2008, and the latter parts of 2007 and 2011 (when the Giants have been at their best under Coughlin) they have run the ball extremely well. Bradshaw has been a good "contact hitter' so to speak for the Giants, but his lack of home run ability is somewhat hampering the team. In 2013 it will be critical to get David Wilson heavily integrated into the offense.

Photo Credit: Mike Gannon


Tags: Ahmad Bradshaw, Andre Brown, Brandon Jacobs, David Wilson, Football, Jerry Reese, New York, New York Giants, NFL

66 Responses to “New York Giants Running Game: Digging Deeper”

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  1.  kujo says:

    Interesting metric, as it kind of reduces everyone to their “between the tackles” roots and filters out the big plays that sometimes skew people’s perception of running backs.

    I think we need to figure out exactly why we can’t run the ball and fix it. Sounds simplistic, but it’s true. Look at the teams in the championship–all 4 of them can run the damn rock. Sure, they all have shiny downfield offensive weapons too. But when it comes down to it, they can all run the ball consistently. We couldn’t do that in 2012, and really couldn’t do it for most of 2011 and 2010.

    •  demo3356 says:

      3 of the teams have top 5 OL’s. Atlanta has a sh*t show OL but teams are so worried about the White, Jones, Gonzo trio that they gear up for them and let Atl run. ATL is not really a top running team

      •  kujo says:

        Then we should try to be like ATL. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect us to build a top 5 OL unit in the next 2 years. But we can be better, and we have as talented a trio in Nicks, Cruz and Bennett (not to mention Randle, Wilson and Hixon).

        •  demo3356 says:

          I think we ran the ball as good or better than Atl this year. Dont have the stats in front of me but I dont remember Atlanta being a very good running team this year

        •  demo3356 says:

          In my continued quest to educate my most remedial of students the Kujo, I’d like to point out that the Giants were 14th in the NFL in rushing with 1862 yards, while the Falcons were 29th with 1327 yards..

  2.  demo3356 says:

    Like I have many times before (nearly always right BTW) I’m going to go on record and Guarantee we DO NOT DRAFT A DE in the first round.. Everyone is saying that due to our history and success over the last 6-7 years. That said the league is a changing and teams have negated our pass rush with 3 step drops, max protects, running up the gut, play action and this read and react BS that exploits aggressive edge rushers. We have bigger fish to fry and need a monster DT, a RT, a CB a TE and a LB way more than another DE. JPP, Tuck, Kiwi, Tracey, Ojomo, Broha and either a bargain FA or mid draft pick will be enough there. We need personnel to adjust to the changing game. We need a Wilfork type in the middle and some thumpers at LB or the next couple f years are going to get very fustrating

    •  kujo says:

      Did you buy a Groupon for FF55′s Erotic Bickram Yoga Class or something?

    •  kujo says:

      Absolutely agree with this post, though. Can’t believe you, me, Krow and FF55 are all on the same page. Could be that those Mayans were right–the end of the world has cometh.

    •  JimStoll says:

      I actually agree with you, so you may wish to change your view

      •  kujo says:

        Jesus, now Jim is on board? What the hell is happening?

        •  demo3356 says:

          well, my point of view and thought process never changes and I’ve been saying the same thing for a while, so maybe I am just educating you bunch of jack wagons into becoming intelligent football fans?

          •  kujo says:

            Ah yes, Demo. You are our Great Educator. Tell us more about the Tampa 2 and pepper is humorous anecdotes about that brunch you shared with Tom Coughlin…

            •  demo3356 says:

              Was actually trying to live up to the FF55yrs comparison you hit me with upthread.. Dont be bitter that I drop more football knowledge in the toilet bowl before 9am every morning than you will ever have..

      •  TonyMW says:

        I 100% agree as well. You can have Strahan and Reggie White coming off the edges, but If WRs are uncovered and/or the ball is coming out w/ a 3 step drop, it is all for naught. I think a DT and LB is where it’s at right now (in the draft, at least). I think a RT can be had in FA, and I think a cheap FA CB is brought into the mix. I was initially wanting a CB to pair w/ Prince on the outside for the next several years, but I’ve come to the realization that Webster probably isn’t going anywhere just yet, and he may prove to be more useful when he’s not on opposing team’s best WR.

        As for the DT position, I think that was by far the biggest issue on the D-line. You put a stud in the middle this past season, and you see much better years from Osi, Tuck and JPP as well as from the LBs. Drafting 1st Rd. DTs scare me though, especially after the “other” Joseph, but I think that may be the direction they go. I’m not totally against selecting a DE, but just not in the first 3 rds. I suspect a guy like Margus Hunt will go higher than he should solely based off of his sick measurable, but if he somehow lasts a few rounds (he should, he makes JPP look like a 10 year vet when he came out), I’d love to give him a chance. That dude is a very intriguing prospect.

  3.  TonyMW says:

    I agree with Kujo in that it’s an interesting metric, but I see this as somewhat more indicative of the performance of the O-line than it is an individual RB’s performance. Take a guy like Adrian Peterson for example (who I believe is ranked 22nd), who’s game is somewhat predicated on several short runs to wear down the defense before ripping off long ones. I don’t think anyone here would take Bradshaw or Brown over Peterson.

    It’s a cool stat to look at, but it’s somewhat useless in grading a RB in my opinion. It’s the O-lines job to open the initial hole, and it’s all the RB after that. How can you praise someone for having the highest percentage of short runs? Strange. If it was a metric focused on the O-lines ability, I can see it making more sense. I like PFF, but sometimes I think they try too hard to be innovative.

  4.  demo3356 says:

    I think this draft could go a number of ways depending on what happens with our free agents and what we can do as far as bargain hunting in outside free agency. I think a big blue chip right tackle or a mammoth DT would be the current front runner followed by CB and even TE.. I’m sure that it wont be, QB, RB, OG, OC, S or DE.. anything else is possible

  5.  GOAT56 says:

    I think the metric shows RBs that are consistenly gainly good yards. The fact that both Brown and Bradshaw rank highly I think illustrates the pointI have been trying to make. Our running was pretty good this year. Not great, we couldn’t just run it down peoples throat or short yardage wise. But we conistenly gained yards.

    While the OL needs an answer at RT and better depth, it’s not in as bad of shape for 2013 as some think assuming we get back Beatty and Boothe. We do need young player to develop and be ready for 2014-2015 but 4/5 of OL has good enough starters for 2013 and would be hard to upgrade. Brewer is the key. If he can hold down RT then we are set with our bookends for several years and just have to find backup players and young interior help.

    DE is pretty set for 2013 IMO. Tracy is a free agent that I would like back but still we have 2 good vets, a young star and a young player with some promise. If we don’t re-sign Tracy then a draft pick would be called for but I think only 3rd round or later.

    DT and CB seem destined for early round picks unless there’s a stop gap free agent help.

  6.  kujo says:

    Bengals tackle Andre Smith is set to become a free agent in March if he doesn’t work out a deal with the team or get the franchise tag.

    He may have some legal issues to sort through while trying to secure his football future, however. WCPO-TV is reporting that Smith was arrested in Atlanta Thursday for allegedly trying to bring a gun onboard an airplane.

    Atlanta police say that Smith tried to board an airplane at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport with a .380 caliber handgun among his belongings. Smith was in court on Friday and got released on a $3,000 bond.

    Smith, a 2009 first-round pick, turned in his strongest NFL season in 2012. While the arrest could lead to discipline from the NFL, it’s likely that he’ll still be a prized commodity if he hits the open market.

  7.  GOAT56 says:

    I understand the concerns about RT. But It just doesn’t seem financially responsible to be paying 5 free agent contracts as starters on the OL. We already have significant contracts in Snee, Bass and are likely to add Beatty (or a replacement) to that group. Boothe is he is re-signed won’t be for the vet minimum. Then add a free agent RT too? I don’t see it unless it’s a Lockear type of free agent signing.

    •  TonyMW says:

      I honestly don’t remember hearing much about Brewer besides the normal “talking up” that usually occurs within an organization, but if he’s not ready (my preference is that he is), I think we see something exactly like the Locklear signing. I don’t think ANY big FA are coming our way, so I’m not expecting anything crazy to happen.

  8.  jfunk says:

    Haven’t been keeping up much. My wife and I just had a baby boy (our first) on Sunday night so it’s been a pretty hectic week. I did watch all the games in the hospital though. :-)

    Bradshaw’s problem is the same it’s always been. His health and poor vision. His feet and ankles are both made of nuts & bolts so he simply doesn’t have a top gear anymore. He also misses too many of the opportunities that present themselves because he doesn’t see them. That’s why he lacks the breakaway runs. The guy is tough as nails and is plenty good enough. I wouldn’t mind having him back on the team at all, as long as it’s not at a price that costs us another player. If he gives half of his carries to Wilson, I think he can be effective for another year or two.

    •  kujo says:

      Hey!!!! Congrats, man! That’s freakin’ great!!!!!

      •  TonyMW says:

        Congrats bro…..I don’t know if you mean your first boy, or your first child, but I’ll assume it’s the latter……Children are single best thing that can happen to your life. My only advice? Through all of the sleepness nights and stressful situations, make a direct effort to cherish EVERY single second that you can. Time passes on so quickly, and before you know it they are starting school……

    •  fanfor55years says:

      The day your first child is born is the day you should thank the universe for giving you a clear sign of purpose. I still think of it as the happiest day of my life.

      Enjoy it, and enjoy him. It all goes by very quickly.

  9.  fanfor55years says:

    The 30,000-foot view of this team is that with a healthy Nicks, Cruz and Randle (with Hixon and Jernigan likely to still be around); Wilson finally let loose (and with a very good Andre Brown in house too); with either Bennett signed or team knowledge that Robinson can make plays in his second year; and with Eli directing things; all the offense requires is resigning Beatty and Boothe and the acquisition by free agency or draft or “roster succession” if they know that Brewer is “the man” of ONE stud for the right side of the line capable of playing in 2013 the offense is going to be okay in 2013.

    They need depth on offense and otherwise just that one critical addition. I think they will be fine on that side of the ball.

    They also need a kicker with more leg strength. I love Tynes but with a few higher-powered offenses around the league, including a few in the NFC East, games may well come down to 45-50 yard field goals and we have to have someone who can make those. I’m afraid Coughlin will not believe that, but he should.

    On defense we really need just one big addition at defensive tackle (unless they part ways with Canty, which would shock me and require two new tackles), a quality MIKE (has to be better than Blackburn and it would make a huge difference if he is even as good as the Dallas interior guys), and an outside corner.

    I think it’s really pretty easy to see that as the case, and since Jerry Reese knows more football than all of us combined, I find it hard to believe they will not go after all of those people with alacrity. Assuming that at least three of those “pieces” are rookies, I think the defense may still need another year to jell, and I worry that they will not get a new placekicker. That’s why I think they are probably going to still be a year away from a run at a championship. But if they do go and get all of those pieces they should reach the playoffs and then we can dream about another hot run.

    •  GOAT56 says:


      For all the minor things we all agree on it seems just about all of us agree with this in general.

      The more I look at the success of these rookie/unknown kickers this year it makes me in favor of going that route. Especially, considering we will be saving so money while possibly upgrading the position.

  10.  kujo says:

    FWIW, Dan Graziano thinks that Te’o would be a perfect fit for the Giants on the field, while acknowledging that the events of the last week would probably make the Giants demure at the circus he’ll likely bring in the short term.

    •  GOAT56 says:

      Football wise I prefer a faster sideline to sideline guy. Teo would be an upgrade but I’m not sure he’s more than a good pro.

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