When the 2012 season began no one would have guessed that running back Andre Brown would become a critical member of the New York Giants' running game. He did, however, and now that tests confirm that Brown will be lost to the Giants for the remainder of the season it's time to discuss the impact of his loss on the Giants.
First and foremost this means that the Giants will be forced to take the training wheels off rookie first-round draft choice David Wilson. Whether Wilson is ready or not in the eyes of the coaching staff he is the next man up, and the Giants will need to not only get him ready but adjust their attack to use what they feel he does best.
"I feel bad for Andre. He’s my little brother, man. It’s heartbreaking for me just to see him so down. When I was a rookie, I told David (Wilson) that D(errick) Ward broke his fibula and I had to step in and be a big part of our offense and that’s what I expect from David and I told him just to get right and get ready for the following weeks to come," Ahmad Bradshaw said Sunday night. "Once we get him going and get him learning a little more and different things in different areas, I think he’ll be a great asset to our offense."
Wilson (24 carries, 102 yards, two pass receptions) will have to be. This is not a simple plug 'n play operation, however. The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Wilson is a much different back than the 6-foot, 240-pound Brown. Wilson is a speedster, a big play threat who -- like Bradshaw -- is willing to run between the tackles but is hardly a bruiser. Brown is a straight-ahead between the tackles bull of a running back who has speed and some ability to make people miss, but he really is a power back.
Let's look at some of the potential impacts of Brown's loss, beyond the simple fact that Wilson will play.
One thing Brown's loss absolutely cannot mean is that the Giants overuse Bradshaw. When Brown missed time earlier this season with a concussion Bradshaw carried 57 times in two weeks. While he was tremendous, gaining 200 yards in one game and 116 in another, that is a workload Bradshaw simply cannot sustain. He hasn't been the same since, as renewed issues with his feet are severely limiting his practice time. Until Sunday night, those problems with his feet also seemed to be limiting his effectiveness.
The Giants simply have to resist the urge to keep Bradshaw on the field all the time. If they fall into that trap Wilson will be carrying the running load all by himself before the Giants are done playing.
Brown had become a touchdown-making machine in the red zone with eight scores this season. The Giants had become reliant on him when they wanted to run the ball near the goal line, and he had responded to the role.
Most likely Bradshaw gets the red zone duty, although the straight-ahead power runs may not be as effective without Brown carrying the ball.
This means you will likely see the Giants forced to emphasize the pass more near the goal line. Maybe Henry Hynoski finally catches a touchdown pass. You will see more fades to Hakeem Nicks or Rueben Randle. You might see Martellus Bennett targeted more often.
When Brown was out earlier in the season Hynoski played more on passing downs than he has recently. With the misgivings the Giants have about Wilson's pass protection awareness, you might see more of Wilson on early down and Hynoski as the blocking back in obvious passing situations. That would serve to help the Giants not have to expose Wilson, and as good as Bradshaw is as a blocker it would also help limit his workload.
Fingers crossed with wishful thinking here, but Brown's absence might also lead to a few more carries for Hynoski. I believe Hynoski can do a lot of the things for the Giants with the ball that John Kuhn does for the Green Bay Packers. It might be time to put the ball in his hands occasionally and find out.
Who will be added to the roster?
The Giants have Rutgers grad Joe Martinek on the practice squad, so adding him is a possibility. The Giants worked out a slew of running backs during the bye week, however, and more than likely will want to add a veteran. Mike Garafolo of USA Today tweeted that Ryan Torain might be a name to watch. Garafolo also tweeted that Torain, a three-year veteran who has played for the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins, was apparently more impressive than former Indianapolis Colts running back Joseph Addai.