In our continuing series of position-by-position breakdowns for our New York Giants, it is time to look at another spot that bears watching this off-season.
Just exactly what does the future hold for this position -- and in particular Brandon Jacobs' status as the Giants featured back -- as it relates to the 2010 season?
Your guess, to be honest, is as good as mine. Let's look at the players, and the possibilities. To me, there are serious questions the Giants must consider about every back currently on the roster.
Brandon Jacobs: What should we make of the big fella? Whether it was his knee, sometimes ineffective blocking in front of him, the plays he was asked to run, or maybe his mindset after signing a rich long-term contract I don't know. Maybe it was all of those things combined. What I do know is the 2009 version of Jacobs was not the same as the 2007 and 2008 versions of Jacobs that the Giants built their offensive philosophy around.
Jacobs has already undergone what was supposedly minor knee surgery this off-season. Coming off that surgery the Giants have to make a decision. Do they believe they are going to see the 2007-2008 version of Jacobs in the upcoming season, or if they believe that devastating, bullish back who made teams fear him is gone?
The Giants know they must re-establish some semblance of the dominant ground game that keyed their offense in 2007 and 2008. Ultimately, they must decide if Jacobs is still a) durable enough and b) enough of a force to be the guy to rebuild around.
If they decide he is, I will cross my fingers and hope they are right. If they decide he isn't it will be very interesting to see if they go to the extreme of cutting ties with him. Remember, if this turns out to be an uncapped year turning Jacobs loose would mean no salary cap hit for the Giants. So, it might be their only chance to make that move without serious financial consequences.
Ahmad Bradshaw: Love the guy. I can't even tell you how much respect I gained for him this season, watching him play so incredibly hard and well on broken feet and bad ankles. Especially in the season's final, meaningless game when many of his injured teammates -- and the team's entire defense -- had already packed it in.
The question about Bradshaw is how much work he can handle. He gained 778 yards this season, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. AB carried the ball slightly more than 10 times per game, and I'm not so sure he can be counted on to do any more than that.
As good as he can be, if 10-12 touches per game is the right workload for Bradshaw that means he is still no more than a piece to the puzzle, a secondary guy who can't be the featured back.
DJ Ware: Potential, potential, potential. That seems to be all we have heard about this guy. Until the end of the 2009 season, though, when we heard some questions about Ware's work ethic. Ware has now spent three seasons with the Giants, and basically still has nothing to show for them -- a lot like Sinorice Moss. Sooner or later, performance has to overrule potential. You have to wonder at this point if Ware will get a chance to reach his potential with the Giants, or if he is going to be looking for work elsewhere for the 2010 season. Right now, I think he ends up looking for work.
Gartrell Johnson: We really have no idea what the Giants have in Johnson. He is a powerfully built 5-foot-11, 218-pound back who was a fourth-round selection by San Diego last spring. The Giants picked him up when Ware was injured, and he saw very limited duty. At the least, Johnson should have a real chance to make the team next fall. If the Giants were to decide to cut ties with Jacobs, I would think Johnson -- who has a reputation as an excellent inside the tackles runner, would have a chance to be part of a rotation with Bradshaw. He should at least be able to contribute in short-yardage situations.
Andre Brown -- The 2009 fourth-round pick from North Carolina State is another huge wild-card in this debate. Brown's skill-set drew lots of comparisons to Derrick Ward during the 2009 training camp. And it looked like Brown might edge Ware for the third running back slot before he tore his Achilles Tendon. Modern technology brings many injured athletes back as good or better than before, but an Achilles injury is potentially devastating to a running back. We just have to wait and see if the injury costs Brown any speed, explosiveness or cutting ability. He MIGHT be the Giants No. 1 back at some point. He might also be damaged goods, a guy who will never be what he could have been. Right now there is no way to know.
Conclusion: I didn't give you one of these on other positions, but feel like I have to here. No matter what they do with Jacobs I am not in the 'draft a running back in the first round' camp. No way, no how. The Giants have some good running backs already available to them on their current roster, and if they get the line play straightened out they have enough. Besides, there are so many needs on the defensive side of the ball that to go offense -- running back or otherwise -- with the first pick is nothing short of foolish.
Keep: Jacobs, Bradshaw, Brown, Johnson
Draft/Free Agency Priority: 3