For the New York Giants to win Sunday, they will need the hard yards by Brandon Jacobs.
There was a time not all that long ago when Brandon Jacobs gave the Giants' offense its identity. During the run to the Super Bowl in '07 and for part of the '08 season, Jacobs would punish defenders with his huge body and put up big numbers in the process. The speedy Ahmad Bradshaw (and Derrick Ward) could benefit from battered defenses as they raced for big gains.
But Jacobs wasn't the same back in '09. Even when he was somewhat healthy, the 27-year-old looked tentative at times as he approached the line of scrimmage. Former Giants running back Tiki Barber told me early in the '09 season that he'd spoken to Jacobs about not exposing himself to so many big hits. And I'm afraid Jacobs took that advice to heart.
He tried to pick and choose his holes, which is not a good approach for a 265-pound back. Without a consistent running game, the Giants were forced to rely on Eli Manning and his young receiving corps for long stretches of games. Of course, it didn't help that the Giants' secondary was getting torched on a weekly basis. When you're down 14-0 four minutes into a game, it's not easy to establish a running game.
So is it time for the Giants to give Bradshaw a shot at being the starter? He's been running since April following surgeries on his foot and ankle. If Bradshaw can regain his speed and quickness, he can certainly be a difference-maker. But it's hard to say how he'd do as the starter. The Cowboys are facing the same questions with Marion Barber and Felix Jones right now. In both cases, the backups bring more explosion to the offense. The Cowboys also have Tashard Choice waiting in the wings. The Giants are hoping that last year's fourth-round pick, Andre Brown, can return from a ruptured Achilles' tendon.
Last season, Bradshaw averaged 4.8 yards per carry and had seven touchdowns while playing through painful injuries. He had six runs of 20 yards or more and he's a threat to find the end zone from any distance. He's had screws placed in both feet to stabilize his bones and he's apparently running without any serious discomfort.
We know the Giants have talent at wide receiver, but they need to find more balance if they want to return to the playoffs. I'm pretty sure the Giants' fan base is ready for Bradshaw to take over as the starter. But will it happen?