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New York Giants position review: Do Giants need to upgrade at running back?

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The answer is complicated.

Rashad Jennings
Rashad Jennings
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The New York Giants have made their head-coaching decision, hiring Ben McAdoo. They won't replace their general manager, keeping Jerry Reese. As the Giants begin the work of planning for 2016 let's go position-by-position, review what happened last season and spin forward to next season.We begin at running back, a position the Giants handled in a confusing fashion much of last season.

2015 in review

The four-man running back by committee approach the Giants used most of the season drove everyone crazy. The Giants ended up 18th in the NFL in both yards rushing per game (110.9) and yards per carry (3.99), but the rushing attack languished near the bottom of the league until the Giants finally allowed Rashad Jennings to establish himself as the primary back the final four games. In that span Jennings carried 79 times for 432 of his career-best 863 yards, averaging 5.5 yards per carry over that time.

Shane Vereen had a career-high in receptions with 59, although his use was inconsistent. There were eight games where he had two or fewer catches. When he was finally, and briefly, given an opportunity during the middle of the season Orleans Darkwa showed that he could potentially be more than a special teams player. Andre Williams struggled, getting limited opportunities and averaging only 2.9 yards per carry. According to Football Outsiders' DYAR stat (Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement) Williams' score of -83 was third-worst among all backs with at least 20 carries.

Is this a position of need?

That, truthfully, is a good question. Jennings just had the best season of his career. He is good, but not great as both a runner and receiver. He is a solid locker room guy and still appears to have plenty left after seven years in the league. He will, however, be 31 next season. Vereen is a capable receiver and change-of-pace runner but not an every-down back. Williams is an enigma after two less-than-stellar seasons. Perhaps he would flourish if given the chance to be a workhorse, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards with the Giants. He doesn't really offer the versatility of the other three backs. Darkwa is an undrafted player signed off the Miami Dolphins practice squad victimized by the NFL reality that drafted players and those with bigger paychecks will get opportunities before he does.

Could the Giants use an upgrade at running back? Sure, but in my view, it isn't a high priority. With their plethora of other needs, it seems like a misallocation of resources to use an early (first two rounds) draft pick on a running back. It is nice to have Adrian Peterson or Tod Gurley, but history shows you can find good backs later and that you don't need a superstar to have a good rushing attack. You need good blocking and capable runners.

The big-name free agents who could be on the market are Lamar Miller of the Miami Dolphins and Doug Martin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If the Bucs let Martin get to the open market my instinct is that GM Jerry Reese might make a play for him. I have always believed that Martin, taken one pick before the Giants selected David Wilson 32nd in the 2012 NFL Draft, is the guy Reese really wanted. Martin is just 27, has had two 1,400-yard rushing seasons, is a solid receiver and was named an All-Pro for his play in 2015.