Friday, May 23, 2014
Easy with the 'three-headed monster' talk
By Dan Graziano
I credit New York Giants rookie running back Andre Williams for staying level-headed amid breathless NFL post-draft hype. Someone asked him Tuesday about whether he, Rashad Jennings and a healthy David Wilson could create a "three-headed monster" at running back. His answer was, basically, that everybody should slow down with that kind of talk.
"I can't really say they're going to build that three-headed monster," said Williams, the 2013 NCAA rushing yards leader the Giants took in the fourth round of the draft. "I'm not really too sure yet. I'm just getting here and learning as much as I can. I think each running back brings a lot of different specialties, and I'm just excited to see what we'll be able to do once we're out on the field."
Good for Williams for the straight talk. One of the things I hate most about NFL analysis is the extent to which it seeks examples from the past to cling to. The Giants won the Super Bowl at the end of the 2007 season with a "three-headed monster" of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw at running back. In no way does that mean (a) that's the way they like to handle running back; or (b) that it can or should be expected to work again with the current group. None of the Giants' current running backs has accomplished anything close to what Jacobs and Bradshaw accomplished in their careers, and the plain fact is the Giants will be very fortunate if any one of them ever comes close.
No one knows if Wilson will ever play again following neck surgery. Indications are that he will, but no one knows for sure yet. Jennings hasn't been a full-time starter for an extended period of time in the league, and no one knows how he'll do in that role. And Williams is a fourth-round pick who needs to get used to the speed of the NFL game, his pass-protection responsibilities ... everything, really, as he appears to know. Peyton Hillis is likely still ahead of him on the depth chart and could stay there into the season. Williams has to earn his way up the ladder like any Giants rookie, and part of the point of having depth at running back is to make sure they don't need to rush him.
I had as much fun watching Williams as anyone did last year. I think Wilson is electrifying when healthy. And I think the Giants' reasoning on Jennings is sound, looking at him as a lightly used guy who could be about to hit his prime late, even if they did jump the market a bit to sign him. But man, there are still a lot of unknowns here. And the odds are nearly 100 percent that, however it works out, it will look different than any running back arrangement the Giants have used in the past. Heck, it's an entirely new offense this year, in case anyone forgot about that.
Let's let Wilson get healthy and let Williams develop along his own track and let Jennings be the lead dog, as he was signed to be, and see whether he performs in the role. If you followed the Giants last year, you saw tons of examples of things not going according to plan at running back. Don't be in a rush to anoint anyone anything. The Giants like their stable of backs, as long as they're all healthy, and they'll let it play out according to what they see. Not what they saw seven years ago.