Ralph Vacchiano discusses the Giants' backfield:
Rashad Jennings, who I like a lot more than most fans (and media) seem to like, will be the likely workhorse and get the majority of carries. (By the way, hard as it is to believe, he got 48.3% of the carries last year, though I'd expect that to tick up.) Shane Vereen will again be the third-down back and primary receiver-out-of-the-backfield weapon. Maybe they get a little more creative with him. Maybe he just plays better. But I see him being more of a factor.
And then? Good question. I don't think Paul Perkins, their fifth-round pick, will have much of an impact in the offense this year. I think Andre Williams will likely get the first shot to be the short-yardage back, and the guy who spells Jennings for a series or two. How long that lasts depends on him. And I think Orleans Darkwa and Bobby Rainey have an uphill battle to make the roster.
Vacchiano also mentioned that the RB breakdown may depend on which coach came up with the "stupid" four-running back rotation the team used last year. If it was the now-departed Tom Coughlin, then the Giants will primarily use two or three running backs. If it was former OC/new HC Ben McAdoo, then all bets are off.
It sounds as if the Giants are looking more at their running backs than the offensive line for their run game failures. McAdoo made it clear that he's looking for significantly more from his runners.
Even when there isn't much room to run, he expects them to gain more yards. When they're in 1-on-1 situations, they need to beat their defenders more frequently. When their is contact, they need to fall forward for a few more yards. Each every one of them is valuable.
"For the backs, the biggest thing for the backs is they need to be aware of the situation," McAdoo said. "When there's one yard to go, they need to get that yard on third and one. When you get 1-on-1 with a safety, we expect our backs to beat that safety and take one the distance, and we haven't done that yet and it's a challenge on them to do that. We expect them to do it and we count on them to do it."
The article considers this a challenge, which means the team may be looking for someone to step up and claim a bigger role. Vereen's role seems pretty set as the third down back, but Jennings, Darkwa and Williams look like they are battling it out for more early down work. Until someone does step up, this is a fantasy situation to avoid outside of Vereen in PPR leagues.
The second-year running back from Wisconsin has 16 carries and 12 catches in his career. He spent 2014 behind Shane Vereen and this year behind Lewis. He’s a player that’s smart, knows where he’s supposed to be, has natural hands and good speed. My gripe with his game is that he went down a little too easily as a rookie. He came back bulked up this year and showed glimpses of being able to run through contact a little more. He’ll also – once he gets some confidence – be able to show whether he can string moves together and be more elusive than he’s shown.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is optimistic.
“James is a very consistent guy,” he explained. “He comes to work. He's got a great attitude and approach, is always prepared to go in and fulfill any of the roles that we have for our backs. He's a dependable guy. He can handle a lot of different assignments, and then when we've needed him to play this season, he's certainly been a guy who has done a decent job in blitz pickup. He's caught the football well out of the backfield, and then he's made yards with it when he's had it in his hands.
“James is a guy who continues to get better,” he added. “Hopefully his best football is in front of him. You know, he's still a young player, has only been in our system for a year and a half here I think. And going forward, whatever his role is, I'm sure James will be prepared, and will give our team everything he has. So I really like his approach and his mentality, and he's got a maturity about him that I really feel good about. He'll have an opportunity now to step in there and play a little bit more with Dion’s situation.”
White figures to get most of Lewis's touches, but Blount is likely to see an uptick in carries as well. White is not the player that Lewis is, but he's able to adequately take over the role. Those owners hurting at running back -- especially in PPR formats -- shouldn't be afraid to bid some FAAB dollars on White this week.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning spent an additional 30 minutes at the end of Thursday's practice throwing to running backs Shane Vereen and Rashad Jennings, who were lining up in wide receiver spots rather than in the backfield during the drill. With the Giants banged up at wide receiver -- Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle are nursing hamstring injuries, Victor Cruz is still out with a calf injury -- it's possible they could get creative in the ways they line up and use their backs.
Vereen's usage has been up and down this season. He had 12 catches in the first two games and then failed to register a catch (on just three targets) in Week 3 and Week 4. Then, against the 49ers, he caught eight balls for 86 yards and a touchdown in Week 5. Vereen should be a solid PPR start in Week 6, but he's not a consistent part of the passing game on a weekly basis. With Odell Beckham banged up, it sounds as if the Giants are preparing to use Vereen and Jennings at receiver.
The New York Giants brought in free agent running back Shane Vereen this offseason to fill a role. They wanted Vereen to add an element to the offense as a receiver out of the backfield on passing downs and in no-huddle situations. Through the Giants' first two games, Vereen has been the most explosive option on offense outside of Odell Beckham Jr., and it might be time for him to inherit a larger offensive role.
Through the first two weeks, Vereen is second to only Beckham in receiving yards on the Giants. He has 12 receptions for 122 yards receiving, and he has also added 33 yards rushing on nine carries. Vereen leads the Giants' running backs with 64 offensive snaps, but he has seen less than half of the offense's total snaps so far.
In the passing game, Vereen has been even more dynamic than the total receiving yards show. On his 12 receptions, he has forced a missed tackle by the defender six times. Several of Vereen's receptions have turned into first downs.
Having Vereen on the field instead of Rashad Jennings or Andre Williams gives the offense more options, the story said. The defense has to respect the run and the short pass out of the backfield. Also, the Giants can opt to go into their no-huddle offense at any moment and feel much more comfortable with Vereen back there. Vereen likely can't handle a bell cow workload, but getting a few more carries or snaps would certainly increase his fantasy value.
Brandon Bolden has previously filled the role of starting running back, but never consistently. He has registered only three career games of 10+ carries.
This past year, Bolden never carried more than five times in a game; in Week 16 against the Jets, when LeGarrette Blount was injured, Bolden carried five times, Jonas Gray carried six times and Shane Vereen carried six times.
We could see a similar distribution between Bolden, James White and Dion Lewis Thursday (although the overall number of attempts might be slightly higher, because the Jets dominated time of possession in that Week 16 game).
Pittsburgh ranked 6th in rush defense and 27th in pass defense a year ago, so the Pats -- also thin at wide receiver with Brandon LaFell on PUP and Reggie Wayne cut -- could feature lots of Rob Gronkowski and Scott Chandler. If Travaris Cadet is available, he could figure into the passing game, too. This may not be a 25-carry game on the ground.
The position that must sort it self out is the pass-catching, change-of-pace back. Whoever it is should have a fairly significant role in the offense. Right now, the first choice has to be Lewis, who displayed terrific change-of-direction and underrated power when given the opportunity in the preseason. Lewis can pass protect and has enough punch to run between the tackles.
The good news is once Blount returns Week 2, if healthy, the story said he should lead the team in attempts, yards and TDs for the season. In terms of pass catching, White has proved slippery in the open field, as well as Lewis. And Cadet hasn't proven anything as a member of the Patriots, which should be an indication of how much the team likes him. They kept him around despite not seeing him at all in the preseason due to a hamstring injury, the story went on to say. After what should be a committee approach Week 1, signs continue to point to Blount as the main back, but there remains three pass-catching options which could cause headaches for fantasy owners.
Through the first drive of the third quarter, Dion Lewis played 23 offensive snaps as he made his case to be considered the top option to replace Shane Vereen as the team's top "passing back." His combination of blitz pickup, pass-catching ability, knack for picking up yardage after the catch, and determination in the red zone (11-yard touchdown run) was impressive.
Up to that point in the game, Lewis' primary competition for the job, James White, had played three snaps. All three of those snaps came out of the "pony" grouping in which he was on the field at the same time as Lewis.
"I thought Dion did a good job with his opportunities," coach Bill Belichick said in his day-after-game conference call. "He's had a solid spring and camp for us. He missed a few days there [because of injury], but I thought he ran well [Saturday] night."
As it turned out, White did too, the story said. Essentially taking over for Lewis from the second drive of the third quarter until the end of the game (the two were on the field together six snaps after that point), it was almost as if White felt the urgency to match Lewis.
That was what stood out most to me when reviewing the offensive snap counts from the game; how the competition between the two has raised the bar at a critical position in the Patriots' offense. White was drafted by the team for this role so he may have the edge because of that. Whoever wins the job should get a Shane Vereen-like role in the offense which would have PPR league value.
It wasn’t only that RB Andre Williams did not possess the best hands, it was that he seemed to lose track of the football and displayed poor depth perception when asked to come out of the backfield to catch a pass.
The Giants are working on this with Williams, their muscular second-year running back and leading rusher from 2014. Williams figures to do the heavy lifting this season, with Rashad Jennings doing a little bit of everything and newly signed Shane Vereen used mostly as a pass-catcher and safety-valve option for Eli Manning after excelling in that role for Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Williams’ primary role will not be as a pass-catcher, but if he is not somewhat of a threat, opposing defense do not have to play him honestly. So Williams has made several changes to make himself more proficient.
In mid-March, he underwent Photorefractive Keratectomy laser eye surgery and now no longer needs contact lenses.
“I don’t have to worry about the strain from the lenses, and I also don’t have to worry about getting knocked in the eye and having my contact get loose or fall out,’’ Williams said. “If your contacts are cloudy or something, it’s a problem.
“It’s cool to wake up in the morning and see right away and not go to bed with the ‘I forgot to take my contacts out and my eyes hurt.’ It’s nice. Best money I ever spent so far.’’
Williams also has been working on his hand-eye coordination by catching tennis balls. Before games, Williams takes part in a blind-ball drill. With his back to running backs coach Craig Johnson, Williams has to turn and quickly locate the ball in the air as Johnson flips it to him. Like the story said, Jennings and Vereen are likely to see a bulk of the passes at the RB position, but Williams will only help himself if he can at least make defense aware. His main role looks like a change of pace back who could see short yardage and goal line situations.
Patriots RB James White — who took a helmet to the thigh in the second quarter but returned in the second half — looked shifty and sure-handed out of the backfield. Whether he was catching dump-off passes in the flat or screens, White always seemed to make the first guy miss in picking up extra yards after the catch.
In a season where the Patriots need to find an adequate replacement for Shane Vereen as a third-down back who can both catch out of the backfield and pick up the blitz, White appeared, at least for one night, a suitable replacement.
“It was a great feeling,” White said. “Good to be out there with my teammates (and) get a chance to go out there and compete against another team. I just want to go out there and make plays and make no mental errors.”
Rashad Jennings took the initial running back reps with the first-team offense. That's not a surprise considering he was listed atop the depth chart and is likely to the team's top ball carrier as long as he's healthy.
But it doesn't mean he'll receive the most playing time. The more versatile Shane Vereen logged the most snaps during Tuesday's practice. It's been that way most of the summer.
Jennings did look good. On one play during 11-on-11 drills, he burst through the hole from around the 20-yard line (showing good explosion) and cut outside at the second level for what might have been a touchdown.
The article said that Vereen out-snapped Jennings 13-to-9, with Andre Williams checking in with three first team snaps. We rank Vereen significantly ahead of Jennings in PPR formats, but Jennings is slightly ahead of Vereen in our standard rankings. It appears that Vereen's role will go beyond what's typical for a third-down back.
Strictly judging by appearances, veteran Brandon Bolden is currently the leader in the clubhouse for Shane Vereen’s third down back role. He’s moved ahead of second-year back James White and everyone else.
Bolden has been the main man for Tom Brady as the pass catching/blocking back during the past three practices.
He was the primary guy during Friday's session. But one practice doesn’t mean much. It could be a rotation type deal. But then, he was the lead again Saturday. So we've started a trend. Three days? Can't be a coincidence. We’re onto something.
“Any work is great out here,” Bolden said today, when asked about his added reps.
Bolden has been a guy who can fill in at any RB role, but never seemed to be a permanent fixture either. It's a bit surprising because many thought the team drafted White last year to be that guy this year. The story said White has fallen even since the pads came out, however. Travaris Cadet, who filled in as a third down back as a Saint last year, got hurt Saturday and the story said he also seemed like he was going to pass White. While there's a way to go yet, the story also mentioned Brady's trust in Bolden, which could be a factor in the winner of this job. It's certainly something to continue to monitor.
Giants beat writer Dan Graziano on Rashad Jennings' rumored demotion: I did not see Rashad Jennings on the field with Eli Manning or the first-team offensive line either of the past two days. He did take a lot of reps with the second team, while Andre Williams and Shane Vereen got a bunch of the first-team work.
Now, I know the coaches really like Williams and the work he's done to improve this offseason. And there's a specific role for Vereen, especially on passing downs. I also know there is concern among the coaches about Jennings' health, as he's 30, missed five games last season and has never played 16 in a season. So it's possible they're just limiting his reps. However, if health were the concern with Jennings, I don't think we'd be seeing him take as many special teams reps as he's taking right now. That as much as anything might indicate a bit of a slide down the depth chart.
Friday Update: Jennings was practicing with the first team on Friday, while Williams was running with the second team.
Rashad Jennings is no longer the man in the Giants' backfield. Jennings, who looked like a bell cow running back early last season, has been seeing a great many second-team reps and special teams reps in camp. Shane Vereen, this year's free agent acquisition, has been drawing more first-team reps, as has second-year man Andre Williams. At the least, this looks like a backfield-by-committee.
Saturday, August 1, 2015, 6:48pm
“I think we have some talented guys on offense,” Manning said. “Talented running backs, guys that are very multiple at running back, catch the ball out of the backfield, move them around.”
Jennings and Vereen aren’t sure yet how the roles will shake out in Ben McAdoo’s offense. On Saturday, Williams saw some reps with the first team.
“I guess we’ll see,” Vereen said when asked what his role might be with his new team. “It’s still a waiting game. … I guess the role is kind of going to play itself out. The more we get on the field, the more practice we get, the more repetitions, I think it’ll kind of speak for itself, and the role will be cut out in some shape or form.”
Jennings wants all the running backs to prepare as if they will start and get the majority of the workload.
Most seem to think Jennings will get a bulk of the early down work with Vereen a pass-catching, third down back. Williams could see goal line and short yardage situations but did serve as the team's RB1 when Jennings was hurt last year.
The Boston Herald broke down the Patriots RBs:
LeGarrette Blount will miss the opener on the suspended list, but should be viewed as a lock because the Patriots made no obvious attempt to replace him in the draft or free agency. Brandon Bolden signed a contract extension last season and is one of their most trusted special teamers. The Patriots believe James Develin is the best fullback in the league, so he is safe as long as the Pats continue to value the position.
We still don’t know for sure much about Travis Cadet, Tyler Gaffney, Jonas Gray and James White really. Cadet has an intriguing set of skills, but could he provide more than Bolden or White? And White just had his second strong spring of OTAs, but can he do it wearing pads? Is Gray the bulldozer we saw against the Colts or the guy Bill Belichick preferred to keep in the doghouse? And the thinking here is that Gaffney’s best work must come in pads, which is why he had a somewhat quiet spring.
The story went on to say that White, a 2014 fourth-round pick, dazzled at the start of training camp last season before falling off the map with 16 healthy scratches in 19 games. He was strong again during the nine-week OTAs program and appeared to be the Pats’ best back in passing situations. White could monopolize that role if he keeps it up and earns more trust, the story went on to say. But if he disappears again midway through camp, he might even get cut. We had news articles last year that stated White could be a potential Shane Vereen replacement, but the team signed Cadet in the offseason and right now is a bit more proven after filling in for Pierre Thomas at times last year in New Orleans. With Blount seemingly the early down back, the winner of the third down, passing situation job could potentially have PPR value in fantasy leagues.
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