Improving the running game has been a focus for the New York Giants ever since planning for the 2012 season began. Last season's difficulties have been well documented -- last in the league with just 89.2 yards per game, and an average of just 3.5 yards per carry.
Are the Giants making any progress in this area of their offense? Sunday against the the New York Jets it certainly did not look like it. The Giants ran 32 times for a pitiful 58 yards, just 1.8 yards per carry. Through two games the Giants are averaging 92.0 yards rushing per game and only 3.2 yards per carry.
Granted, some of that is compiled with backups who either won't make the roster or will rarely play if they do. With their first team Saturday against the Jets, though, the Giants gained only 19 rushing yards on 15 first-half attempts. The longest run of the night for the Giants on Saturday was seven yards
So, if there is progress being made it is certainly difficult to find in the overall numbers.
"We didn’t have any really breakout runs to speak of. It was pretty inconsistent, and some choppiness. Each one of the guys seemed to have a play or two that was good and a play or two that was bad," said Giants coach Tom Coughlin.
Of course, starter Ahmad Bradshaw left early in the first half with a hand contusion. Still, with a somewhat revamped offensive line, with Martellus Bennett being the best run-blocking tight end the Giants have had since Jeremy Shockey, and with fullback Henry Hynoski in his second season, the Giants still were not able to generate running lanes consistently.
Coughlin was left looking for positives. He found one in working against a quality Jets run defense.
"From the standpoint of our offensive line, the amount of looks that we got last night, and the communication that was necessary, and the split-second timing in regard to how things would be conducted up-front, that’s all good stuff. You cannot underestimate how valuable the pressure of that kind of scheme in our second preseason game, how valuable that is to us going forward. That’s going to be very helpful," Coughlin said. "I didn’t like it, a lot of it, and we certainly had our share of mistakes, and our second and third guys were kind of swimming a little bit, but I don’t think there’s any question about the value of it."
The coach also found a small silver lining in the single carry given to Hynoski, a third-and-one carry in which the fullback barreled ahead for two yards and a first down.
"The short yardage pick-up by Henry (Hynoski), although not a lot of distance, was a plus for us. We’ve not always, in the last couple of years, been very good in that area. That was a plus. It gave us one more form of a weapon to be utilized in that circumstance. That was a good thing," Coughlin said.
Coughlin also praised first-round pick David Wilson for his effort in pass protection, which is going to have to continue for the speedster to get real opportunities to make an impact carrying the football.
"He had a nice pass protection pickup. He probably should’ve stayed up and not tried to cut the rusher, but he did. He knew who he had, and he came over with aggressiveness, and so he did understand that aspect of pass protection, which is a good thing," Coughlin said.
Until last season, Coughlin-coached teams had always been among the best in the league running the ball. This Giants' team is a long way from returning to that kind of productivity. Right now, though, the Giants will take whatever small signs of progress they can get. Even if that means getting excited about a two-yard run by a 260-pound fullback.