The Giants’ re-signing of Orleans Darkwa to a modest one-year deal this spring was a blip on the radar compared to the splashes Jerry Reese made with Brandon Marshall’s free-agent acquisition and a blockbuster contract extension for Jason Pierre-Paul.
But Darkwa, 25, now is splitting first-team reps with presumed starting running back Paul Perkins and seeing even more work than usual with Shane Vereen hobbled and unavailable. And with Rashad Jennings gone and veteran Shaun Draughn (foot) also not practicing, Darkwa quietly seems to be challenging for a feature role.
“I’ve said this for years now: At the end of the day, my mentality is to want to be the starter on this team and be an impact player on the offense,” Darkwa said after Thursday’s practice. “That’s not gonna change. That chip on the shoulder is not gonna go anywhere. So I’ve just got to prepare myself like that and keep getting better.”
Darkwa, a fan favorite the Giants signed off Miami’s practice squad in 2014, has shown flashes of production as a runner in the two-and-a-half seasons and 33 regular season appearances.
He has averaged 4.01 yards on 71 carries as a Giant (285 yards) and scored four touchdowns. That included 10 carries, 53 yards and a TD in Week 3 against Washington last season, and 12 carries, 48 yards and the Giants’ lone TD in Week 4 in Minnesota.
If this is truly the case, it puts a dent in the upside of Paul Perkins, which is already capped due to Shane Vereen's presence on third downs.
Giants running back Paul Perkins has the greatest potential of any Giant for a second-year breakout. The key for the 2016 fifth-round pick is opportunity.
Perkins spent most of his rookie season backing up veteran Rashad Jennings before finally taking over as the starter in Week 17. With Jennings released this offseason, Perkins enters the season as the Giants' unquestioned No. 1 back.
In an uncharacteristic move, Giants coach Ben McAdoo named Perkins the starting running back this spring. That's a strong indication of how much the 5-foot-10, 208-pounder is valued. As long as Perkins proves that he can handle the increased responsibility, he should be the team's top running back all season, the story said.
RB Rashad Jennings is still without a team after the Giants released the tailback in February, but expects to be employed by the time the season kicks off. In fact, he believes his offseason of dancing and touring will actually help him secure a spot on some team's roster.
"I'm in the best shape of my life. I'm always going to be in shape," Jennings told The News & Advance, while hosting his 180 Weekend in Lynchburg, Virginia. "That's what I'm known for across the league. A team knows they're going to have a player that's going to be in the best shape of their life."
Jennings may have to wait for an injury to take place, which always seems to happen before the season start. As the story pointed out, he's coming off one of his worst statistical seasons, running for just 593 yards at 3.3 yards per carry.
Giants RB Paul Perkins appears to have the coaching staff sold based on what he did last season and this spring.
“Well, what he’s shown is … in our system you have to have three phases: You have to be able to run the ball. He was an effective runner last year,” running backs coach Craig Johnson said. “You have to be able to catch the ball. He did a good job in that. And you have to be able to block people, because they are going to try you out. He probably improved the most in that situation. Guys were going to test him out to see if they were going to get to the quarterback. He held up very good in protection and he’s continuing to do that.
“If you can do that, that allows you to be a guy that it’s possible to stay on the field all three downs.”
The Giants are of the belief that Perkins can be an every-down back. They used him as such late last year when Vereen was injured and he was in a 50-50 timeshare with Rashad Jennings.
Vereen may change the situation slightly this year. He was subbed in on most passing downs for the Giants the previous season, when he caught 61 passes.
But this year could be different. Perkins may just be viewed as the feature back the Giants have lacked in recent years.
“I really like what Paul Perkins has been doing so far,” Johnson said. “He ended last season playing like a guy that is ready to take over the job. There is nothing so far in the offseason to show he’s not going to be able to handle that role.
“But that is today. It’s a long way from today to the opening game.”
We expect Vereen to get most of the passing down work since he excels in that area and has more experience than Perkins. If Vereen were to get injured, it sounds as if Perkins would take on his role on passing downs.