On Sunday night, Canton, Ohio, the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, played host to the annual curtain raiser to the NFL season, contested this year between the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants. Starters may have had very limited roles in the game, but that did not stop the growing excitement surrounding each team′s new faces, and in particular, rookie running back Andre Williams.
The tailback, a fourth-round draft pick out of Boston College, looked lively in his first game in professional football. His 48 yards on seven carries were by no means earth-shattering, but he showed good power to break a number of tackles, as well as the elusiveness to hit holes and make significant gains on a number of his carries. He sits behind Rashad Jennings on the depth chart, but if Sunday night′s performance is anything to go by, he could play an important role in a bounce back season for the Giants in 2014.
Last season was arguably the worst of Eli Manning′s career, as the two-time Super Bowl MVP set career-highs in interceptions (27) and sacks taken (39), whilst he threw for just 18 touchdowns, his lowest tally outside of his rookie season. Obviously much of this can be attributed to a struggling passing game, but the fact the Giants did not have a productive running game, ranked 29th in the NFL last season, put pressure on Manning to carry the team on his shoulders. Ultimately, this was a burden which the 10-year veteran struggled to bear.
Though Williams offers little help in the passing game, having just 10 receptions during his four-year career at Boston College, including none in his final season, his hard-running style could prove a much-needed fillip to Big Blue′s offense. He will likely give the Giants a reliable option on short-yardage situations, as well as helping open up the play action passing game for Manning and his receivers. The Giants have been looking for a running back to replace Ahmad Bradshaw′s production but that doesn′t share his tendency for coughing up the football, and Williams could well be that guy.
It would take a fairly spectacular preseason to see him jump Jennings to the number one spot on the Giants′ depth chart, but in the more likely case that he cements the number two spot, Williams can still make a big contribution. The days of a featured back carrying 90%+ of the workload for a team are all but gone, with teams opting for committees in an attempt to increase their longevity in the league, as well as keeping players fresh for the end of the season. Throw into the mix a new-look offensive line that may need some time to gel, and Williams′ power running looks like an even more welcome addition in the Big Apple.
If offensive coordinator Bob McAdoo and running backs coach Craig Johnson can help develop Williams into a threat in the passing game also, then the thumper from Boston College has franchise running back written all over him in the very near future. Regardless of that however, the Giants′ offense looks better balanced this season thanks to his presence, and though he′s unlikely to put the G-Men on his back and carry them to the Super Bowl in his rookie season, things certainly look to be trending upwards for New York′s ailing offense.
Image credit: NFL.com