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Positional Reviews: Running Back ... A Big Question For The Off-Season

<strong>Ahmad Bradshaw</strong>.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Ahmad Bradshaw. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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How the New York Giants handle the running back position heading into 2011 will be interesting to watch. It is possible, if you look at it one way, that the Giants would choose to bring back none of their current triumvirate of Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs and D.J. Ware. On the other hand, it is within the realm of possibility that all three guys come back. Right now, your guess is as good as mine.

That said, let's do our 2010 running back positional review.

Ahmad Bradshaw

We all know the deal with Bradshaw. Tremendous effort, incredibly hard to tackle, tremendous ability to break a long run, but also tremendous difficulty holding on to the football. His 1,549 yards from scrimmage (1,235 rushing) were often cancelled out by his seven fumbles (six lost). Only Peyton Hillis of the Browns (eight) had more fumbles than Bradshaw. By the way, how does a guy with guns like Hillis' fumble eight times?

Anyway, back to Bradshaw. For me, a season which saw Bradshaw get the starting nod, lose the job and still become the first Giants back to amass 1,500 total yards since Tiki Barber still ended with more questions than answers about the 24-year-old four-year pro.

Let's start with the biggest one. Should Bradshaw be a Giant next season? He is a free agent, so that is a question GM Jerry Reese and coach Tom Coughlin really do have to answer. If they do want him back, just how much are they willing to pay him? Would they pay him like an elite back, or would they try to sign him to a shorter-term, less lucrative deal?

The answer to that has a lot to do with the answer to a couple of other questions. Do they trust him to ever overcome the fumbling issues that have plagued him? Bradshaw has now fumbled 12 times in three years, once every 42 carries. Just for reference, I chose a few top-flight backs at random. Maurice Jones-Drew of Jacksonville fumbles once every 114 carries. LaDainian Tomlinson has fumbled 31 times in more than 3,000 career carries, once every 99.9 carries. Michael Turner of the Atlanta Falcons has 11 fumbles in 1,116 career carries, once every 101 carries. So, Bradshaw is fumbling more than twice as much as some other elite backs. Fumbling problems can be overcome, a la Barber or Minnesota's Adrian Peterson. Peterson fumbled 16 times in 2008 and 2009 combined, but just once in 2010. Question is, do the Giants believe Bradshaw will do what is necessary to fix his ball-security issues?

The other question is whether or not the Giants believe the 5-foot-9, 198-pound Bradshaw is a legitimate No. 1 back. Even the first 1,000-yard season of his career has left that question open. His 276 carries this season were more than he had in the first three seasons of his career combined. There is no question in my mind that he wore down. In the Giants first seven games he averaged more than five yards per carry five times. In the last nine he did so only twice.

So, for me how the Giants choose to proceed with Bradshaw will be one of the most interesting questions of the off-season. I think he will be back, but I also think the Giants will look to supplement the position either via free agency or the draft.

Overall Grade: Kwillie

Rushing Receiving
G Rush Yds Y/G Avg Lng TD Rec Yds Y/G Avg Lng TD
2010 - Ahmad Bradshaw 16 276 1235 77.2 4.5 48 8 47 314 19.6 6.7 18 0

Brandon Jacobs

I think we have seen the last of Jacobs in a Giants' uniform -- and I think the two sides will end up parting via mutual consent. Jacobs, 28, has two more seasons to go on his contract but I don't believe he will be finishing that contract in a Giants uniform.

Jacobs was effective this season, no doubt, gaining 823 yards and averaging a career-best 5.6 yards per carry. There is little doubt, though, that the Giants want to move away from Jacobs as the primary back (his 147 carries were his lowest total since Tiki retired), and that Jacobs won't accept that status quietly over the long haul. His helmet toss in Indianapolis, and his epithet-filled exit from the locker room on 'baggy day' reinforced that.

Maybe the Giants can get a low-round pick for the big fella. More likely, though, I think at some point this off-season the Giants and Jacobs agree to part ways and Jacobs is turned loose.

Overall Grade: Kwillie

Rushing Receiving
G Rush Yds Y/G Avg Lng TD Rec Yds Y/G Avg Lng TD
2010 - Brandon Jacobs 16 147 823 51.4 5.6 73 9 7 59 3.7 8.4 22 0

D.J. Ware

Depending on how you feel about Ware, he has either never been given the opportunity by the Giants to show what he can really do, or has never really been able to grasp the chance the Giants have been trying to give him. I fall into the latter category.

In 2009 the Giants tried to incorporate the talented 6-foot, 234-pound Ware as a third-down back and kick returner. He got hurt, then showed questionable work ethic and wound up with that year as a lost opportunity. Again this season he had no real impact, getting just 20 carries and catching seven passes. He showed some flashes as a kick returner, averaging 20.6 yards on 21 returns.

Ware, 25, has been around the Giants for four seasons now and I doubt he is back for a fifth. He is young enough and skilled enough that someone will give him an opportunity. I just think it's time for the Giants to give someone else an opportunity, and for Ware to go find himself a fresh start in sa different uniform.

Overall Grade: Wet Willie

Rushing Receiving
G Rush Yds Y/G Avg Lng TD Rec Yds Y/G Avg Lng TD
2010 - D.J. Ware 9 20 73 8.1 3.7 14 0 7 67 7.4 9.6 18 0