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Will New York Giants ever abandon running back by committee?

We have called for this twice. Maybe the third time will be the charm.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants are dividing one by four and pretty much coming up with zero. Yes, that math doesn't compute, but neither does what the Giants have stubbornly tried to do at running back the past several weeks. Will they ever abandon the four-man committee they have been using.

We have called for that, and then called for it some more, mostly asking/begging/pleading for Orleans Darkwa to at least get a bigger slice of the pie. Head coach Tom Coughlin certainly sounded this week like th Giants do not intend to pare down the committee approach.

"First of all, you've got to remember, we've had four healthy guys for the whole season, okay? So give us a little bit of credit for thinking that way as well," Coughlin said. "(Shane) Vereen is the third-down guy. He comes in in long-yardage, as well. It may be attached a little bit to personnel, but that's kind of the way it is. The other three guys, they play on first and second down primarily. Although you're going to see 23 (Rashad Jennings) on third down, as well, because he's a good protector.

"So they all have different levels of skills and we try to take full advantage of them. I would like to be able to say to you that in certain games we ran it 30 times and this guy carried it 20, but it has not happened that way. We're a little bit a product of that as well."

Earlier in the week, Coughlin was asked about riding a hot hand at running back. He said he would, but asked "when does it happen?"

I would submit that splitting the workload the way the Giants have could actually be preventing that from happening. The Giants are 28th in the league in rushing offense at just 89.4 yards per game, and 27th in yards per attempt at 3.7. Here is a player comparison of the four Giants' backs from Pro Football Reference.


Rushing Receiving
Rk Year G Att Yds TD Y/A Lng Rec Yds TD Y/R Lng
1 Orleans Darkwa 2015 11 25 111 1 4.4 17 0 0 0 0
2 Rashad Jennings 2015 11 111 417 1 3.8 27 21 188 1 9.0 51
3 Shane Vereen 2015 11 47 203 0 4.3 39 40 342 3 8.6 37
4 Andre Williams 2015 11 65 180 1 2.8 35 1 7 0 7.0 7

The pure numbers tell you that Darkwa has been effective while getting the fewest opportunities, perhaps the most effective of any of the four backs. Andre Williams the least effective.

Football Outsiders tells us that Jennings is second in the league in a stat they call Success Rate, with 56 percent of his runs being called successful.

FO defines Success Rate like this:

This number represents the player's consistency, measured by successful running plays (the definition of success being different based on down and distance) divided by total running plays. A player with higher DVOA and a low success rate mixes long runs with downs getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage. A player with lower DVOA and a high success rate generally gets the yards needed, but doesn't often get more.

Basically, whatever yardage is there, Jennings gets. No more. No less.

Football Outsiders' running back stats also tell us that using their advanced metrics, Williams has been the league's worst back.

Pro Football Focus tells us that Darkwa's Elusive Rating of 62.4 would be fifth among running backs if he had enough touches to qualify. He has forced six missed tackles on 25 carries and averages 2.60 yards after contact.

Final Thoughts

Obviously, the easy recommendation -- and the one we have been making for weeks now -- is more Darkwa and less Williams. At this point, though, whichever players the Giants choose at least one player and maybe two need to be dropped from this regular rotation.

If the Giants believe Jennings is a No. 1 franchise back they need to ride him. If they believe Williams would flourish given 15 carries instead of two or three, then give him those 15 carries. If they want to look at the data and the film and simply ride the guy who has been playing the best football then give the ball to Darkwa until he proves he can't succeed with increased work.

Granted, there are other factors impact the Giants ability to run the ball -- the lack of a blocking tight end, inexperience at fullback and the shuffling offensive line among them. They aren't, however, helping themselves with the way they are handling their running backs.