The New York Giants added Shane Vereen to their backfield. They have a developing player in Andre Williams. What about Rashad Jennings, the guy who is supposed to be the starter? Let's look at Jennings as we continue or player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.
2014 Season in Review
The Giants signed Jennings as a free agent to be their No. 1 back despite the fact that he was entering his sixth year in the league and, at 29, bordering on old for a running back, had never handled that responsibility before. How did that work out? Well, looking back the best way to say it is that results should probably be considered mixed.
Jennings played well at times and his value as a mentor for rookie Andre Williams in undeniable. He ended up playing in just 11 games, nine starts, due to knee and ankle issues, however. In several of those games, especially at the end of the season, he was limited. Jennings ended up gaining 639 yards and averaging just 3.8 yards per carry and catching 30 passes. Below the 733 yards, 4.5 yards per carry and 36 receptions he had in 2013 for the Oakland Raiders. Williams had far more rushing attempts than Jennings (217-167) and led the Giants with 721 yards rushing.
2015 Season Outlook
Jennings figures to open the season as the No. 1 back, but the picture is even more crowded this time around. Williams, of course, is back for a his sophomore season and if he can improve upon his 3.3 yards per carry average he could eat into Jennings' playing time. The acquisition of free agent running back Shane Vereen, who had 97 receptions over the past two seasons with the New England Patriots, could also eat into the number of times Jennings touches the ball.
Jennings is valuable to the Giants no matter how often he touches the ball. He worked out with Williams and Orleans Darkwa during the offseason, helping the young backs learn what it takes to prepare properly for the NFL grind. He talks again and again about how carries and snaps played on't matter, winning does. Despite now being 30, though, an age where running backs are considered to be in decline, Jennings believes he still has much more to give on the field.
"The way I learned as a young runner, as a young pro, how to take care of my body, how to study the game, those type of things are reasons why I'm just now entering my prime," Jennings said. "The way that I prepare I'm not going to change because it works. As far as health-wise, none of us are God, we're humans. Get hit a certain way I don't care what you've done you've got a chance to be injured."
Jennings credited Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor, among others, with helping him learn how to be a pro.
Running backs coach Craig Johnson feels like Jennings had a good spring.
"He is a great leader, very versatile, can play all the downs and does a good job," Jennings said. I really like what I saw from him this spring and he felt good, is fit and is running around, so I think he brings a lot to the table."
Jennings also believes that being in the same system for a second straight year and "understanding how to run in it" will help him be productive.
"I've always beaten high odds. I've always been a late bloomer," Jennings said. "It wouldn't surprise me at all if I had the best year of my life."
No matter how much of the workload Jennings ultimately carries in 2015, he will be important to the Giants.