- Kieran Darcy, ESPN Staff Writer
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Brown carried the ball 30 times for 115 yards in his regular-season debut last week. His 6-foot, 227-pound frame took a serious pounding. But four days later, he's looking forward to getting back on the field.
"A couple massages and the cold tub, [and] I’m fine," Brown said Thursday. "Ready to just go out there and get it beat up again."
Brown gave the offense a huge boost against the Oakland Raiders. The Giants entered the game ranked 30th in the NFL in rushing yards per game, and in yards per rush. Eight different players have started in the Giants' backfield in the first nine games of the season, if you include fullbacks Henry Hynoski and John Conner. That's the most by any NFL team in a season since 1987.
But it's clearly Brown's job, now.
"I expected him to play well, but you never know till you get into the game situation how he’s going to respond, how far along he is in his conditioning and everything else," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said Thursday. "He wound up playing exceptionally well, and the way the game was going he wound up running the ball more than maybe we had anticipated doing going into the game."
Entering last week's game, the Raiders had the sixth-best rushing defense in the league, making Brown's performance even more impressive. The Packers are currently ranked 13th, giving up 106.7 yards per game on the ground. Last year against Green Bay, the Giants racked up 147 rushing yards against the Packers -- 64 by Brown, 58 by Ahmad Bradshaw -- in a 38-10 victory.
Brown said the Packers present a different challenge than the Raiders. "They’re a 3-4, and you got good guys -- you got (B.J.) Raji, you got (Clay) Matthews, you got (A.J.) Hawk, those are good guys who play good ball," said Brown. "Looking at last year, the way we were able to produce against them in the run, it was fun and exciting to see that. So we’re looking forward to it this year."
An improved running game should help the Giants' passing game as well. Eli Manning is having a down year, leading the league with 16 interceptions, and wideout Hakeem Nicks has yet to find his old form, still looking for his first touchdown catch.
"Usually what happens, what you hope is an outgrowth of running the ball well is, now people have to respond to your run game, and out of respect to that, it should open up some play-action opportunities," Gilbride said.
The Giants may give a few carries to Brandon Jacobs, who returned to practice Thursday, or Peyton Hillis. But Brown should get the vast majority of the handoffs again -- and he could look even better.
"As the season goes on, I’m pretty sure that I’ll get in better game shape," Brown said.
Brown's been injury-prone in his young NFL career. But it sounds like Gilbride and the Giants plan on riding him as long as they can.
"I know he’s done everything he can to get himself as physically ready as he can for the rigors of being the primary ball carrier. But you just don’t know. You’re just rolling the dice," Gilbride said. "We’ll play him as long as we can and hope that it’ll last the whole season. We expect it to, we have no reason to think otherwise, but no one knows."