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New York Giants' Spotlight: Brandon Jacobs, how long can he last?

Giants' Career Rushing Leaders
10,449 Tiki Barber (1997-2006)
6,897 Rodney Hampton (1990-97)
5,296 Joe Morris (1982-89)
4,638 Alex Webster (1955-64)
3,836 Ron Johnson (1970-75)
3,609 Frank Gifford (1952-60, 62-64)

When I think about New York Giants' running back Brandon Jacobs, there are two questions that come to mind.

-- How much longer can Jacobs, with his battering-ram style, play at the elite level he has attained the past two seasons?

-- Where will he end up in the pantheon of all-time great Giants' running backs?

To be honest, how the first question is answered has everything to do with what the answer to the second question will eventually be.

Jacobs has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons since taking over as the Giants' primary back after Tiki Barber, the leading rusher in franchise history, retired.

When the Giants have the ball, there is nothing more satisfying than watching the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Beast punish defenders dumb enough -- or unfortunate enough -- to try and tackle him head on. After Jacobs flattened Washington's Laron Landry in the open field last season we even came up with a new term.

Here at BBV, when Jacobs leaves an opposing defender checking to make sure all of his body parts are still attached we say that unfortunate fellow has been "LaRon'd."

It is Jacobs' bruising, rarely try to avoid contact style, though, that makes you wonder how long he can continue to dish out the punishment before it takes its toll on him. NFL running backs generally do not have long shelf lives, anyway, especially as dominant performers. Guys like Earl Campbell and Christian Okoye paid a tremendous price for their physicality, and you wonder if Jacobs eventually will, too.

The Giants do everything they can to try and protect the big fella. They use their tremendous depth to limit his carries, and he has averaged just 17.5 rushes the past two seasons. They even replace him sometimes on short-yardage situations -- where he is an obvious weapon -- to lessen the pounding he takes.

Yet, we have seen Jacobs, 27, miss games in each of the past two seasons with knee injuries (5 games in 2007, 3 games in 2008) largely suffered because of the gang-tackling it usually takes to bring him down and the shots he consistently takes to his knees and ankles.

I'm holding my breath and hoping it doesn't happen, but it seems like only a matter of time before one of those hits causes a serious injury that does more than keep him sidelined for a couple of weeks. Or, the accumulated pounding starts wearing down his body and making him less effective.

All of that doom-and-gloom aside, there is no reason to think the Beast can't continue to unleash the full force of his fury on cowering defenders for at least a couple more seasons. He had better be. As much time as we have spent talking about wide receivers the past several months, it is Jacobs who is still the primary weapon on the Giants offense. He is the punisher, the tone-setter, the single Giants' player opposing defenses fear.

If Jacobs could ever stay on the field for a full 16 games -- and I just don't know if that is realistic -- he could likely approach a 1,500-yard season.

Jacobs has amassed 2,620 yards in his four-year career. Another year like the last two and he could pass Frank Gifford to become the sixth-leading rusher in team history. He needs just 1,216 yards to move into fifth place on the Giants' all-time list. Two more 1,000-yard seasons and before he turns 30 Jacobs could find himself trailing only Tiki Barber, Rodney Hampton and Joe Morris on the team's all-time list.

Pretty lofty company right there.

How high he climbs on that list depends on how long his body holds out. Let's just hope it's long enough to put him up in Hampton country.