Despite at times looking like the best running back on the roster, Orleans Darkwa generally drew the short straw in the convoluted, mostly ineffective, four-man committee the New York Giants used at the position in 2015. Rather than working his way into a bigger role in 2016, could Darkwa actually draw the short straw again and find himself out of a job in a backfield that is even more crowded than it was a year ago?
Let's talk about Darkwa as we continue our series of player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp later this summer.
2015 Season in Review
With two well-paid veteran free agents and a mid-round draft choice in front of him, Darkwa waited his turn last season as the Giants' running game floundered. That, like it or not, is how it generally works in the NFL. Darkwa was a second-year player who entered the league as an undrafted free agent and was signed off the Miami Dolphins practice squad. He watched, while his higher-profile teammates played. Through those first six games the Giants averaged 3.58 yards per rushing attempt and never once reached the 100-yard mark.
Darkwa finally got his opportunity in Week 7 against the Dallas Cowboys and ended up with eight carries for a career-best 48 yards. Darkwa never carried more than those eight times in any game, but became a part of the running back committee for several weeks, until a back injury and a decision by the Giants to ride Rashad Jennings the final few weeks of the season. Darkwa ended up carrying 36 times for 153 yards (4.3 yards per carry) and catching three passes.
2016 Season Outlook
Based on the (too) limited sample we saw a year ago, you could make the argument that Darkwa is the best all-around back of the four who were with the Giants in 2015. The harsh realities of life in the NFL, though, mean Darkwa could be up against it when it comes to even making the 2016 roster.
Jennings, Shane Vereen and Andre Williams are all still Giants. The team drafted Paul Perkins in the fifth round, and his status as a draft pick automatically makes him more likely to stick in 2016 than Darkwa. Bobby Rainey was also signed as a free agent. If you want to add undrafted Marshaun Coprich [see our interview with Coprich] to the mix, it's not a pretty picture for Darkwa.
The fact that Darkwa is limited to jogging lightly on the side during OTAs after suffering a leg fracture doesn't help, either. Darkwa is a good back and a good special teams player who doesn't deserve to be cast aside by the Giants. The numbers, though, aren't in his favor. If the Giants are sticking with Jennings for another year, if coach Ben McAdoo means it it when he says he isn't ready to give up on Williams, there might not be room in a Giants uniform for Darkwa.