- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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As training camp approaches, we're taking a look at the defending champions, position by position.
Position: Running back.
Projected starter: RB Ahmad Bradshaw.
Projected reserves: RB D.J. Ware, RB David Wilson, RB Andre Brown, RB Da'Rel Scott and FB Henry Hynoski.
New faces: Wilson and RB/FB Joe Martinek.
Jason O. Watson/US Presswire
Going, going, gone: Brandon Jacobs.
Player to watch: Wilson. All eyes will be on the Giants' first-round pick. Wilson has already flashed some of his talents in OTAs and minicamp. He is quick and shifty and has shown some explosion at the line of scrimmage in non-contact practices. He can catch out of the backfield, but he will have to learn pass protection schemes and grasp the offense and how to react to defenses.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said Wilson is likely the most explosive player on the team. We'll see how long it takes for the rookie to learn the offense, pass protection and earn the trust of the coaching staff in order to replace Jacobs. If it doesn't happen by the end of camp, the Giants might go with a veteran like Ware or Brown initially as Bradshaw's backup until Wilson gets more comfortable and emerges.
Potential strength: The Giants lose size, experience and power with Jacobs in San Francisco. But one positive is the Giants are getting younger –- and likely quicker -- at a position where that often matters.
Bradshaw is the undisputed starter and wants to carry the bulk of the load. Bradshaw should also be the goal-line back, which he was at times even with Jacobs around. But if the Giants want to stick to the two-back formula, Ware, Wilson, Brown or Scott will have to earn more carries. All of them bring somewhat different strengths. Ware can catch out of the backfield and has the most experience of the backups. Wilson may be the quickest, shiftiest and perhaps the most explosive of the group. Brown could be the most well-rounded back, offering muscle, good speed and the ability to catch. Running backs coach Jerald Ingram likened Brown to former Giant Derrick Ward. Scott has top-end speed and potential big-play ability but has to show he is more comfortable with the offense this season after losing offseason training and coaching due to the lockout last year as a rookie.
All of those backs have little pro mileage on their legs, which should help since the combination of Bradshaw and Jacobs had wear and tear. It remains to be seen how many running backs the Giants will keep -- Hynoski is the fullback and did show the ability to catch out of the backfield as well -- but the rushing attack will look different than it has in years past with Jacobs gone. That might not be such a bad thing after finishing last in rushing last season.
Potential weakness: Health and inexperience. Bradshaw wants to carry the load and be the main guy now. Bradshaw is the toughest player, pound for pound, on the team and runs as hard as anyone in the league. But health is always a concern, with his surgically repaired feet and ankles. If Bradshaw misses time –- he played in just 12 games in the regular season last year and had an injection in the offseason to help his foot –- the Giants are left with a group of running backs that has little NFL experience. Ware has a total of 81 carries but Brown, Wilson, Scott and Hynoski combine for a total of seven NFL carries. One of those backs will have to spell Bradshaw to keep him fresh and healthy for the end of the season.
Also, Jacobs brought intangibles that must be replaced. He was one of the team's most vocal leaders on the field, firing up teammates on the field before every game. Having his size and brute force gave the Giants some swagger. He injected a spark throughout the team whenever he delivered a physical punishing run, firing up the Giants' defense on the sideline. The Giants will have to find a way to replace that and Bradshaw can assume that role.
Wild card: The offensive line. If the line blocks better and opens up bigger holes than it did a year ago, it won't matter who is carrying the ball. The running game will be better if the line can dominate and be physical at the line of scrimmage. The line and running game got better as the season progressed, rushing for 100 yards or more in six of the last nine games of the season –- including the playoffs. It's imperative that the Giants carry that over to this season to help Eli Manning.
Tell us what you think of the running backs below.