Did we witness the beginning of the end of Ahmad Bradshaw as the New York Giants' feature back on Sunday?
Andre Brown started both halves for the Giants in their loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and played 44 snaps to Bradshaw's 23. Bradshaw ended up with more carries (10 for 57 yards) than Brown (7 for 65 yards), but still it was interesting to see Brown on the field to begin both halves. That is the first time this season we have seen that when both players have been ready to play. Maybe part of the snap count total was the fact that the Giants were being beaten soundly, but it is still worth noting.
It really might be jumping to conclusions to think the demise of Bradshaw as the feature back is at hand. Yet, it is fair to wonder how much longer Bradshaw can carry the primary load.
Bradshaw has a long and consistent injury history filled with problems mainly involving his feet and ankles. Head coach Tom Coughlin said this week that Bradshaw, playing for several weeks now with his latest foot injury -- described as a bone bruise -- would "have probably every test known to man" during the Giants' bye week.
The Giants are obviously concerned about Bradshaw, and the report that Joseph Addai and several other free-agent running backs worked out for the Giants this week adds credence to that.
Running backs, of course, historically do not have a long shelf life at the top in the NFL. Bradshaw, amazingly, is only 26 years old. Considering his history, however, it's fair to say his feet and ankles are probably much, much older than that. Bradshaw can still be productive -- he is averaging 4.5 yards per carry this season -- but you can't help but wonder just how much work his fragile feet can take.
With Brown shelved by a concussion Bradshaw did incredible, yeomanlike work in weeks 5 and 6, carrying the ball a combined 57 times for 316 total yards. He hasn't been the same since, however.
Bradshaw's heart and his toughness are beyond question. How healthy he is, however, is not. The bone bruise has him back to practicing once per week, if he practices at all. Since those two games he has carried 59 times for 226 yards, 3.8 yards per carry. Before that he was averaging 4.8 yards per carry, so there seems little doubt that the foot injury and lack of practice is having some impact.
Brown has 60 carries for 321 yards (5.35 yards per carry) with seven touchdowns. His work on Sunday against the Bengals -- 65 yards rushing and five catches for 29 more yards -- was one of the few offensive bright spots.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride implied this week that Brown will get more opportunities going forward.
"We thought Andre has deserved some chances; when we've given him an opportunity to carry the ball, he's done well," Gilbride said. "He's catching the ball extremely well. I think it's more a matter of him earning that chance to get on the field. So far, every time we've given him chances, he's come through for us."
There is also the small matter of the Giants having drafted David Wilson in the first round. Of course, we know Wilson hasn't had many opportunities yet and that he has some things to prove to the coaches before he gets them, but there is a reason the Giants used their first-round pick on a running back.
They understand that Bradshaw and his feet are probably on borrowed time -- at least when it comes how that time relates to being a No. 1 running back for an NFL team with Super Bowl aspirations.
Considering what we have seen, and heard, recently it's simply fair to wonder if the sand in the hour glass is beginning to run out on Bradshaw's time as top dog in the Giants' backfield.