- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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The chatter Monday around the New York Giants was of running backs. David Wilson fumbled twice and got benched in the opener Sunday night, and among those getting tryouts Tuesday in East Rutherford are Willis McGahee and old friend Brandon Jacobs. This after Beanie Wells was in last week, and other names being whispered include Joe McKnight and Tim Hightower. It would be no surprise to see the Giants sign a veteran halfback this week. They only have three on their roster, and two are unproven. Actually, all three are unproven, or this wouldn't be a headline-worthy issue on this Monday, would it?
That's the key thing to remember on Wilson, and on the veteran backs who are in for the standard Tuesday tryouts: The Giants aren't looking to replace their downcast second-year back. They're looking to supplement him. None of the names in that first paragraph would be candidates to take Wilson's job, but rather to ease it. For the Giants to sit Wilson down in favor of a veteran who hasn't yet found work would be rash and shortsighted, and that's not the way they do business.
Recall that, just three weeks ago, Wilson wasn't supposed to be handling three-down running back chores. Andre Brown was replacing him on third downs and at the goal line, because Brown had a better knowledge of the pass-blocking schemes and was ultra-effective last year at the goal line. But then Brown broke his leg and all of a sudden Wilson was hearing from everyone inside and outside the building about how much more was going to be asked of him. And then he goes out and whiffs on a couple of key blocks and gives the ball away twice against Dallas on Sunday night and gets benched, and now it's all about "What are they going to do at running back?"
Well, the answer is likely that they're going to do what they were going to do in the first place. They don't need to replace Wilson. They need to replace Brown. And Da'Rel Scott and Michael Cox don't appear to be the guys to do it. Perhaps Jacobs, who obviously knows the offense better than any back on the market, can do it. Perhaps McGahee, who was the Broncos' starter last year before he got hurt and is a proficient pass-blocker (because the Broncos won't play you at running back if you're not either), can handle it if he shows he's healthy enough. Perhaps there's a name of which we've yet to hear.
But on Overreaction Monday, in the wake of an ugly loss to a team the Giants and their fans despise, it's easy to lose sight of the big picture. Wilson is 22 years old and has a grand total of 78 career NFL carries. It's entirely possible he's not ready to be the superstar feature back everybody seems to want to rush to make him. He's special to watch when he has the ball in his hands -- a gifted, lightning-fast, tough runner who offers the kind of big-play potential they're simply not going to find in one of these tryouts.
The Giants want and need him on the field for those reasons, and they don't really believe a fumbling problem is going to derail his promising career. They believe they can get him right, and if that means bringing in someone to ease the load and maybe tilt that spotlight a little bit so it's not shining right into the depths of his pupils, then maybe that's the right answer. Maybe using him on kickoff returns again, where he was so dazzling last year, would help his confidence. Maybe the young man just needs to breathe. Maybe he just had a bad night and it'll never happen again.
The Giants' best move here is to bring in someone to add to their depth at running back so that, if Wilson turns out not to be ready yet to be the feature-back star, they have a better option than Scott to spell him. But it's important that the team and its fans not overreact to Wilson's bad night in Dallas. He's still a supremely talented young player with a bright future. The Giants' job is to help him manage his way into and through that future, whatever it takes. Fortunately for Wilson, they are an organization that understands this and will keep the big picture in mind. Even if that means easing his load in the short term.
2dBy Dan Graziano