New-Look Giants Part III: Rashad Jennings, Pass Protection & the Tight End

May 05, 2014
New-Look Giants Part III: Rashad Jennings, Pass Protection & the Tight End

What is the opposite of David Wilson?

That would be Rashad Jennings, Wilson’s new backfield mate in New York.

Jennings is a burly back, reliable and efficient, and more than serviceable as a pass protector. The Giants’ biggest free agent signing is everything Wilson is not, and everything head coach Tom Coughlin has always sought in a running back.

I’m not exactly bullish about Eli’s prospects in offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s West Coast offense, though I think McAdoo’s sharp departure from New York’s option routes will be good fantasy news for Cruz and at least one other Big Blue pass catcher.

It’s Jennings who I think could prove the preeminent value play in the Giants’ new offensive system, as McAdoo spreads out defenses and puts Jennings – an efficient fantasy producer since entering the league in 2009 – in favorable situations.

Giants beat writers, including ESPN scribe Dan Graziano, have reported that the New York coaching staff has very specific ideas of how Jennings will be deployed in McAdoo’s West Coast system, which used a single back on nine of every 10 snaps in 2013.

“The Giants signed Rashad Jennings to be their starting running back. They believe he's ready at this stage of his career, after backing up guys like Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville and Darren McFadden in Oakland, to handle a starter's workload,” Graziano wrote. “They believe he can catch the ball for them out of the backfield, that he can grind out yards between the tackles and that he's capable of delivering a big play. Assuming he picks up the blocking schemes and can help in pass protection, he's their guy.”

Rashad Jennings' Track Record & Projection

A look back at Jennings’ per-touch fantasy production during his injury-riddled time in Jacksonville and his year in Oakland shows a runner who – with the exception of one season – posted superb numbers in mostly limited opportunity.

Rashad Jennings Per-Touch Fantasy Production




Fantasy points per touch

Rashad Jennings




Rashad Jennings




Rashad Jennings




Rashad Jennings






For some perspective on how solid Jennings’ point-per-touch numbers (0.86) were in 2013, consider that Marshawn Lynch averaged .81 points per touch, while Eddie Lacy and Le’Veon Bell scored .76 fantasy points every time they touched the ball. Alfred Morris posted .64 points per touch last season.

It’s all splendid if you keep your gaze away from those 2012 numbers. Jennings was almost unusable that season, returning from a knee injury and concussion symptoms that kept him sidelined for the entire 2011 campaign. I’m not saying his 2012 struggles should be thrown out of the equation, but his numbers and on-field play during his one year in Oakland showed a completely different runner.

Here's how Jennings would shape up as a fantasy asset in 2014, using his career points per touch average, along with a more modest .75 average. The below numbers show that Jennings -- the 32nd running back off the draft board -- could be a top-10 runner if he sustains his per-touch average and hangs on to the workhorse role that seems to be his for the taking.

Even his lower projections would give Jennings owners a decent fill of fantasy equity.

Rashad Jennings Range of 2014 Outcomes


200 touches

225 touches

250 touches

275 touches


172 (RB24)

193.5 (RB18)

215 (RB16)

236.5 (RB9)


150 (RB28)

168.8 (RB25)

187.5 (RB19)

206.5 (RB17)

The Importance of Pass Protection

Then there’s the issue of keeping Manning upright behind an offensive line that proved sieve-like for much of 2013. Struggles in pass protection kept Wilson off the field on almost every passing down last year, and occasionally got him benched for a series or two.

Jennings, at 6’1” and 232 pounds, isn’t known as the league’s preeminent pass-protecting running back, but beat writers have said the Giants wouldn’t have signed Jennings if blocking was a major concern.

"First and foremost, the runner needs to be able to protect the quarterback," offensive coordinator McAdoo said in an interview with the Newark Star-Ledger. "Obviously, it's ideal to have a guy that is functional out of the backfield catching the football, but at the end of the day, if they can't protect the quarterback, they're going to have a hard time getting on the field."

Giants’ general manager Jerry Reese said Wilson’s return to the team this summer would be seen as a “bonus,” though Wilson is widely expected to be ready for OTAs. Whatever happens with Wilson, the starting gig is Jennings’ to lose.

The Tight End in Former TEs coach McAdoo’s Offense

“To me, it was always the best position to coach and in this offense it’s the best position to play because you have to learn how to do everything and you have to learn how to do it well at a high level,” said McAdoo, who coached tight ends for six seasons in Green Bay. “At the end of the day, you have to find players who you can plug in and figure out what they do best and make sure on the field that they’re doing what they do best.”

The Giants will, quite amazingly, start the 2014 campaign with their fifth starting tight end in five seasons. The position has been in serious flux since Jeremy Shockey left for New Orleans in 2007. Like I said, flux – and lots of it.

New York wisely decided to move on from Brandon Myers this season, after awarding the replacement-level tight end with a hefty contract in 2013 thanks to fantasy-friendly garbage time production with Carson Palmer in Oakland during the latter half of the 2012 season.

Perhaps general manager Reese had Myers on his fantasy squad. There’s really no way to know.

The team’s current stable of tight ends -- Kellen Davis, Adrien Robinson, Larry Donnell, and Daniel Fells – caught a grand total of six passes last season, prompting speculation that Big Blue might be in the market for one of the NFL Draft’s premiere pass-catching tight ends.

Someone like University of North Carolina stud Eric Ebron.

There’s also rampant speculation that McAdoo could recruit former Packers tight ends Jermichael Finley – whose spinal health remains in doubt – or Andrew Quarless, who filled in for Finley in 2013. Quarless, in 12 games, was used primarily as a blocker, and did little after the catch in the rare occasion in which he caught the ball in space.

McAdoo has said time and again since taking the Giants’ coordinator gig that he would tailor his West Coast system around personnel, and that he wouldn’t stubbornly force players into roles they did not fit. If the Giants don’t have a viable pass-catching tight end in 2014, I think fantasy owners can – and should – look elsewhere for late-round TE picks and weekly streaming options.

If McAdoo and company draft or sign a tight end who can do damage in the passing game, I’ll pay close attention.

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