Herman was a seventh-round draft pick by the Giants in 2013 out of Ohio University. He spent almost his entire rookie season on the practice squad.
Free agent acquisition Rashad Jennings and fourth-round draft pick Andre Williams looked like a potent one-two punch in the backfield.
But, through two regular-season games, the Giants are ranked 29th out of 32 NFL teams in rushing yards per game -- the same lowly spot they were ranked a year ago.
And their average output, 67 yards, is even significantly lower than last year (83.3).
Yes, it's only been two games -- but the Giants desperately need a stronger running game to be successful this year.
Jennings has 34 carries for 110 yards, averaging 3.2 yards per carry. He also had a very costly fumble in the fourth quarter of last Sunday's loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Williams has gained just 21 yards on 13 carries (1.6 yards per carry), and coach Tom Coughlin said Thursday that he believes Williams is going through some natural rookie growing pains.
"He missed a couple opportunities the other night and he’s well aware of it," Coughlin said. "He made the error of not believing or not staying with his initial key and kind of getting off and being a little helter skelter and then finding nothing."
Williams, who led the NCAA in rushing yards a year ago at Boston College, doesn't sound like he's lost his swagger, though.
"I think we just have to execute better, play faster, play with more confidence, and just make sure we stick to our fundamentals," Williams said. "I think this week is gonna be a good week for the run game."
The Giants' opponent this week, the Houston Texans, are ranked 18th in rushing defense, allowing 116 yards per game. But they're giving up 5.0 yards per carry -- tied for the worst mark in the league.
If the Giants can't run the ball effectively this week, that's a really bad sign.
Music to our ears: As the Giants were stretching at the start of practice on Friday, loud music was playing, including "Hypnotize" by The Notorious B.I.G.
This is commonplace at Rex Ryan's New York Jets practices, for instance, but not common at all with Tom Coughlin's Giants -- leading to a question about it afterward.
"The players wanted that," Coughlin said. "We’ve done that before; we did it years ago. Just a little bit of noise in the air, like a stadium pregame."
Coughlin added that the topic came up during a meeting with the players' leadership council.
This appears to be another example of Coughlin loosening up a little bit -- but he clearly did not pick the soundtrack.
"What’s an iPod?" Coughlin said. "I see everybody with these things sticking out of their ears all the time. What the heck? What, you need music to run? You can’t exercise without that stuff? What the heck?"
While the Giants practiced Friday, Beason was in Charlotte, North Carolina , having his foot injury evaluated by Dr. Robert Anderson. Beason called head trainer Ronnie Barnes to provide an update, coach Tom Coughlin said after practice.
"Our medical people, after listening to the conversation, just figured that this wouldn't be a week to put him out there," Coughlin said.
Beason told reporters Thursday that he felt "a whole lot better," and wouldn't rule out playing against the Texans. Coughlin offered no timetable for Beason's return.
"Here's a guy that's tough and gritty, and he'll go out there as soon as he can," Coughlin said.
The coach did indicate that Beason's injury could be a lingering problem.
"[He'll] probably have to fight through something like this for the duration," Coughlin said.
Beason's absence hurts, particularly against a Texans team that ranks eighth in the NFL in rushing yards per game (151.5) and first in rushing attempts per game (40.0).
Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and linebacker Devon Kennard, both with hamstring injuries, were also ruled out by the Giants.
The last time Ryan Fitzpatrick went three games in a row without throwing an interception was the end of the 2008 season, when he was playing for the Bengals, and that stretch included a 5-for-9 passing game in a 14-0 victory over Cleveland. Starting for the Texans this year, Fitzpatrick has not thrown an interception in either of his first two games. The New York Giants' defense hasn't intercepted a pass or recovered a fumble yet this season, making them one of only three teams in the league without a takeaway on defense.
Both trends will end Sunday, when Fitzpatrick and the Texans play the Giants at MetLife Stadium. I'm picking Prince Amukamara, he of the three career interceptions, to end the Giants' no-takeaway streak and help the Giants to an ugly, ugly, slopfest of a victory over Houston.
My Prediction: Giants 17, Texans 13.
Weatherford, who has been playing through a high ankle sprain, sat out Wednesday's practice but worked on a limited basis Thursday. The Giants may just be giving Weatherford some extra rest, heading into Sunday's game against the Houston Texans.
Linebacker Jon Beason was also absent, but that's because he's having his injured foot evaluated by Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, North Carolina. Beason has not practiced at all this week but has not been ruled out for Sunday's game yet. We should get an update on Beason later in the day.
Rookies Odell Beckham Jr. and Devon Kennard, both dealing with hamstring injuries, were working on the side, and won't play Sunday.
We'll have more information later, after post-practice interviews with coach Tom Coughlin and the players.
"I thought he had some comfort in his feet," McAdoo said Thursday. "He felt good about where he was going with the ball. That is encouraging to see."
The Giants only rushed for 81 yards on 27 carries -- just 3.0 yards per run. But the offensive line did appear to give Manning more time in the pocket.
"[The O-line] are making progress like everyone else," McAdoo said. "Today was probably our best Thursday practice of the year. We completed the ball well. We didn’t have pads on, but we had a good day running it."
McAdoo has featured a three-wide receiver set quite frequently in his first two games as offensive coordinator, but that third wide receiver will be someone else, now that Jerrel Jernigan has been lost for the rest of the season with a foot injury.
Preston Parker will get the first crack, and McAdoo spoke positively about him.
"Preston is on the roster for a reason," McAdoo said. "We trust him. He can create separation out there. He is aggressive to the ball. We know he is a competitor."
As for rookie wideout Odell Beckham Jr., who continues to be sidelined with a hamstring injury, McAdoo says Beckham doesn't even enter into his mind right now.
"He has a special skill set. He is gifted. He is talented. He is smart. He is conscientious. I am excited for the chance for him to come out here," McAdoo said. "When he comes out here, it will be a good bonus for all of us."
Special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said there were multiple issues on the Ginn return. "Number one thing is you want to make the tackle," he said. "Second thing we want is more hang time and the location. We expect the ball to go to the right, and it didn’t go to the right. [But] whatever comes off his foot, we have to cover."
Demps lost the ball after spinning, trying to gain extra yardage. "We have worked on ball security," Quinn said. "We don’t want to spin. That is probably trying to do too much. Just let the game come to you. If you try to hit a home run, you are not going to hit a home run. Hit some singles and they’ll go out."
Demps returned several kickoffs from deep in the Giants' end zone, but Quinn said those were good decisions. "We want to be aggressive," Quinn said. "We felt like it was close. You look at the tape and one or two blocks each time and he could come spitting out of there and give us some good field position."
Punter Steve Weatherford (ankle) practiced on a limited basis, after sitting out on Wednesday. Offensive linemen James Brewer (back) and Charles Brown (shoulder) were limited for the second day in a row.
Defensive tackle Markus Kuhn (ankle) practiced fully for the second day in a row.
When asked Thursday what concerns him most about the Texans, Pierre-Paul answered, "Nothing."
"I feel like we should be able to handle their offense, and nothing concerns me," he added.
The Texans are third-to-last in passing yards per game (172.5), but eighth in rushing yards (151.5), and lead the NFL in rushing attempts through two games (80).
"Foster is one of the best in our league," Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "Great vision -- it's unbelievable his vision, how he can see the small creases, his acceleration into those small creases, and then his ability to get yards in a small crease and move the chains."
The Giants have been pretty good against the run through two weeks -- 12th in the league, giving up 100 yards per game. Pierre-Paul, while known as a pass rusher, has been the second-best 4-3 defensive end against the run in the entire NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
"JPP, I thought he played really well last week in the ballgame -- not only in the run game, but also in the pass game," Fewell said. "He's had a great week of practice. So we just keep patting him on the butt and saying, 'Come on JPP!'"
Pierre-Paul did look like the JPP of old last Sunday -- the player who posted 16.5 sacks in 2011. He had 1.5 sacks against the Cardinals and was also credited with two passes defensed -- including one of his patented bat-downs at the line of scrimmage.
But he doesn't sound satisfied. "I am trying to get better," Pierre-Paul said. "I need to stop the run a little more. I need to get to the quarterback quicker. That is basically it. Chase the ball."
Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has yet to throw an interception this season. In fact, he hasn't even been sacked.
The Giants, on the other hand, have failed to force a single turnover in their first two games.
"We need turnovers," Pierre-Paul said. "Turnovers win games, especially if you’re on defense, and I’m a big part of that."
Fewell said forcing turnovers has been a big point of emphasis in practice this week.
"We had our hands on two balls last week, and we didn't come up with it," Fewell said. "Stevie Brown had his hands on a deep ball, and you expect him to come down with that one. [Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie] had his hands on a ball; you expect him to come down with it. We just haven't made our own breaks."
The Giants are hoping to change that come Sunday, and if they do, Pierre-Paul will likely be a big reason why.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It appears the New York Giants have not lost their middle linebacker after all.
"I feel like I could go out there and take care of business," Beason said Thursday. "I'm active in the meetings. I know the game plan. I'm still studying and preparing as if I'm playing Sunday."
Beason aggravated the injury, which kept him out for the entire preseason, after stepping on someone's foot during Sunday's loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Initially there were fears that he might miss the rest of the regular season.
"I felt like I'd felt a pop," said Beason, who is one of the Giants' two defensive captains. "It scared me right away. We went in and got some pictures. But it's feeling a lot better right away, so it's an indication that it's probably just scar tissue."
The next step is a visit to Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Friday. Dr. Anderson, the foot/ankle specialist who initially diagnosed Beason's injury back in June, was out of town earlier in the week -- otherwise, Beason said, he would have made the trip Tuesday.
"I wanna make sure everything's good," Beason said, "and then we'll determine when is a good time to come back."
I can remember when it used to be a compliment to be called “the best team in baseball.” Ha. Not anymore.
Now, all of a sudden, it’s an indication you’re about to roar off a cliff -- in about the next 20 minutes.
Which brings us to the latest edition of our ever-popular September History Watch. Our subjects: The A’s and Red Sox -- two teams we were referring to, not so long ago, as “the best team in baseball,” but now cause us to ask:
What the heck happened?
Where do their unbelievable falls rank among the most historic in baseball? Take a look.
The collapse of the mighty A's
On Aug. 10, with just 45 games to play, the A’s still led the Angels by four games in the AL West. You can look it up. Boy, those were the days.
But we woke up Thursday morning to video montages of the Angels spraying champagne -- and the A’s trying to figure out how they managed to drop 15.5 games in the standings sooooo fast.
So how rare is it for a first-place team to plummet that far in the standings in the final weeks of the season? I ran that topic past the Elias Sports Bureau. Here’s what it reported:
• Just eight other first-place teams since 1900 have lost 15 games or more in the standings at any point in August. They include three of the most infamous collapsers in history: the 1969 and ’77 Cubs, and the 1914 New York Giants.
• Three of those teams actually dropped by at least 18 games in the standings once they began tumbling: the ’77 Cubs (22.5, in the final 58 games), the 1905 Cleveland Naps (19.5, in the final 65 games) and 1977 Twins (18.0, in the final 42 games).
• But wait. Only three of those teams held an August lead, at any point, that was as large as Oakland’s, or larger -- the 1969 Cubs (9.0 ahead), the 1914 Giants (up 6.5) and a 1977 White Sox team (led by 4.5 on Aug. 1) that crumbled in sync with those ’77 Twins, in the most historic parallel swan dives in history. So we’ve just narrowed the field dramatically.
• And when we look at just those teams’ final 45 games, it turns out there’s really only one team that parallels the fall of these A’s. And anybody who was A) alive in the '60s and B) living in Chicago could tell you all about it. Only those ’69 Cubs went into the final 45 games with a hefty lead (plus-9.0) -- and then dropped 17 games in the standings, finished 8 behind the Mets and broke 4 million hearts.
None of the other teams on this list led by more than half a game with 45 games left in the season. So if the A’s lose a couple of more games in the standings in the next week and a half, uh-ohhhhh. That means they’d actually surpass the collapse of the ’69 Cubs, a team that scarred its fans for life. Hard to do.
But as my buddy Buster Olney has argued, if this Oakland team not only loses its division but misses out on both wild-card slots, that would be the worst collapse in history, by pretty much any standard.
We wouldn’t wish that on anybody. But it’s still scary. And now here’s something that’s just as scary:
The 111-loss team that zoomed by the World Series champs
A mere 11 months ago, the 2013 baseball season ended with the Boston Red Sox partying in Fenway Park -- and the Houston Astros gearing up to make the first pick in the draft.
The Red Sox were (ahem) “the best team in baseball.” The Astros had just lost 111 games -- a loss total matched or exceeded by only 12 other teams in the World Series era (1903-present).
But then “next year” arrived. By which we actually mean “this year.” And a funny thing happened. It was shrewdly detected by my friend Gar Ryness (aka The Batting Stance Guy) in a tweet a few days ago:
"Told you Astros would have more wins than RedSox."— Batting Stance Guy (@BattingStanceG) September 12, 2014
And that got me to thinking, which is always a dangerous development:
Has there ever been a team that lost 111 games or more one year and then won more games than the defending World Series champs the next?
Well, here’s your answer: No. Not even close.
If we exempt the 1904 Senators team that lost 113 in a season when there was no World Series, there have been 11 other teams that lost at least 111 times in a season when a World Series was played. Here’s how they fared the next year:
• Eight of them finished more than 20 games behind the defending champs.
• Four of them finished at least 35 games behind the defending champs.
• Two of them -- Pinky May’s 1942 Phillies (61 back of the Yankees) and Choo-Choo Coleman’s 1963 Mets (53 behind the Yankees) -- actually finished more than 50 games behind the defending champs.
• Their average finish was 31 games back of the champs.
• And the closest any of them came to catching, let alone outwinning, the reigning champs was 11 games, the margin that Dmitri Young’s 2004 Tigers finished behind the Marlins.
But now let’s check our handy-dandy ESPN standings page for this season. And what do we find? We find this amazing news:
The Red Sox have won 66 games.
The Astros have won 67 games.
And they each have 10 to play.
I’ve chronicled many wild and crazy developments over the years in the September History Watch. But I’m pretty sure I’ve never been more riveted by any of them more than I am by the thought of how this one will turn out.
A 111-loss team outwinning the team that just finished parading through the confetti? This might be the best race in baseball.
Fellow linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring), who did not practice Wednesday, either, did make an appearance on the field Thursday, but was just doing some light work on the side.
The same goes for rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham, who is also dealing with a hamstring injury.
Punter Steve Weatherford (ankle) was back in action after sitting out practice Wednesday.
We'll have more later after post-practice interviews with Coughlin and the players.
The Houston Texans are 2-0, just like they were at this time last season when they lost in Week 3 and didn't win again all season en route to the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.
The New York Giants are 0-2, just like they were at this time last season when they lost in Week 3 and didn't win until Week 7 en route to a 7-9 season and an offseason overhaul.
Well, someone should win in Week 3 this season because the Texans and Giants play each other at 1 p.m. ET Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Here are ESPN Texans reporter Tania Ganguli and ESPN Giants reporter Dan Graziano with your preview of the game:
Graziano: Tania, what's going on down there? One thing we thought we knew about Ryan Fitzpatrick was that he would throw interceptions. But so far he hasn't. What's been the key for the Texans' offense in terms of taking care of the ball?
Ganguli: I had an inkling this might happen but was already taking so much heat for predicting eight wins for the formerly 2-14 Texans that I opted to wait and see. What we've seen is a quarterback making good decisions and doing exactly what the Texans have asked of him. He's had a lot of time from an offensive line that hasn't given up a sack, and he's had help from receivers who are keen to make life easy on him with their athletic ability and intelligence. He also hasn't faced very opportunistic defenses, which helps.
I had this game penciled in as a loss for the Texans before the season began, but having seen the Giants these first two weeks, I'm not so sure about that anymore. I guess I have the same question for you. What's going on up there? What do you make of this 0-2 start?
Graziano: Seems like more of the same to me, honestly. I think people in this market are starting to recalibrate their expectations of the Giants, and I don't think it will be long before the perception around the league catches up.
They are a rebuilding team in a league and market that don't allow anyone to say that out loud. Last year's team was one of the worst in the league, and its 7-9 record was deceptively good -- built on a run of backup opposing quarterbacks and some December wins against teams that had shut it down. To the Giants' credit, they didn't get fooled, and they went out in the offseason and rebuilt the roster. They signed more free agents than any other team, which isn't the way they like to operate, but they had no choice given all their holes.
The result is a work in progress. The offense was incompetent in the preseason and the opener in Detroit. It showed improvement (and some competence) in Sunday's loss to Arizona, but it's clear it takes a lot for the Giants to score and they lack any true dynamic threats in the offense. They are also weak in pass protection, especially in the middle of the line, where retirements and injuries have left them a bit short.
As I write that, I'm thinking about J.J. Watt (maybe because he's on every other commercial that comes on my TV). Should a Giants offense that's not very exciting and can't protect its quarterback reliably be panicked about that Houston defensive front, even without Jadeveon Clowney?
Ganguli: They could learn something from the way the Raiders played the Texans. Oakland planned well for Watt and kept him without a tackle Sunday, doubling him constantly. Of course, that was a week after he had one of the best games of his career (blocked extra point, fumble recovery, sack, batted pass, two tackles for loss). I would say, yes, they should panic a little. Beyond Watt, a guy to watch is outside linebacker Brooks Reed, who got a game ball after their Week 1 win, along with Watt.
The Giants should be equally concerned about what's been an opportunistic secondary in the first two weeks. Last weekend, the Texans' secondary forced two fumbles and intercepted Raiders quarterback Derek Carr once. Safety D.J. Swearinger has been part of three of the Texans' six forced turnovers. He is a character, and it's been working great for the Texans this year.
I know the Giants made a lot of changes on their defense. Do you see them ending Fitzpatrick's streak of clean games?
Graziano: Well, they're due, I'll tell you that. But it's hard to imagine they're the team to do it. The Giants are one of three teams in the league -- along with Pittsburgh and Kansas City -- that doesn't yet have a takeaway. Combine that with their five giveaways and the 0-2 record doesn't need a lot more explanation. Tom Coughlin and Antrel Rolle talked Monday about the need to force some turnovers and get some free field position. But especially considering they spent so much on the secondary so it would be the strength of their team, the inability of their defensive backs to get interceptions is one of the more puzzling aspects of their slow start.
The Giants gave up 124 rushing yards to the Cardinals on Sunday, which annoyed Coughlin as well. And they haven't been able to run the ball very well themselves. Do you imagine Houston will be able to control the game on the ground with Arian Foster?
Ganguli: Boy, that description of the Giants and turnovers sounds a lot like the Texans last season. They were never able to break out of it, and the 2-14 record reflected that.
Foster and the Texans' offensive line were dominant against the Raiders' run defense last week. Foster had 28 carries for 138 yards and a touchdown. The Texans ran the ball 46 times, a lot of it during garbage time, and threw only 19 passes. Foster already has 55 carries in the Texans' first two games, a number no running back has reached in the first two games of the season since Chester Taylor in 2006. The Texans aren't afraid to work him, and if they're facing another bad run defense, they'll be able to exploit it.
The Texans had growing pains offensively in their season opener, as it was the first time the entire starting unit played together in a game in Bill O'Brien's system. The Giants also learned a new offensive system during the offseason. Can you attribute any of the slow start to the learning curve there, and have you seen signs of improvement?
Graziano: I think that's part of it, and you definitely saw in the "Monday Night Football" opener in Detroit that there were some issues with Eli Manning's footwork and his timing with his receivers. You see a zone run play every now and then where Rashad Jennings doesn't make the right cut. There's some learning still going on.
But I think the main problem, unfortunately for the Giants, is one they can't solve in-season. I don't think they have enough high-quality players at the key positions to run any offense and make it high-scoring. Victor Cruz is their best receiver, and he's a slot guy who's dropping too many balls. The interior of the offensive line is still a patchwork mess. Larry Donnell is catching passes at tight end, but he's still a liability as a blocker, which is hurting the run game. Will Beatty's performance at left tackle is inconsistent from week to week. They're just not very good, and it's hard to imagine that this 14 points per game trend is an aberration -- especially with another tough defense coming to town.
But we'll see. That's why they play the games and all that. Enjoyed the chat, Tania. Travel safe, and I'll see you Sunday.
NEW YORK -- There is little make-believe talk this week that what goes on outside NFL team buildings stays outside the building during this young-but-embattled season.
Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka was at MetLife Stadium on Sunday when a plane towing a banner that read "Goodell Must Go" flew overhead before New York's game against Arizona. Eli Manning says it's hard to ignore the image crises the NFL is fighting when it's on TV day after day.
By the time Kiwanuka, Manning and Victor Cruz -- three of the most thoughtful Giants -- spoke with the media Wednesday afternoon, they didn't pretend they were too deep into preparations for Houston this week to hear how the NFL's major corporate sponsors such as Anheuser-Busch had complained about the league's bungling of its child abuse and domestic violence scandals.
They knew NFL league office remained in full crises-control mode, too, with commissioner Roger Goodell still out of sight. They saw the amended punishments handed out to Ravens running back Ray Rice and Vikings star Adrian Peterson, the consternation that the Panthers' Greg Hardy and the 49ers' Ray McDonald are attracting for not being immediately benched. They agreed little had been handled correctly.
But there is still a missing piece to this story, too, you know. And Kiwanuka, Manning and Cruz all landed upon it independently as each of them stood by his locker Wednesday, saying some things that haven't been said enough.