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Pat Shurmur: Giants’ RB Jonathan Stewart can still “play at a high level”

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Struggling running back gets some support from the head coach

NFL: New York Giants at New York Jets
Jonathan Stewart is swarmed by Jets defenders on Friday.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The lack of production from veteran running back Jonathan Stewart (10 carries, -5 yards this preseason, including a costly fumble on Friday night vs. the New York Jets) has New York Giants fans up in arms. The Giants signed Stewart, who spent 10 seasons with the Carolina Panthers, to a two-year, $6.8 million contract in the offseason.

Off what we have seen so far, and with Friday’s three-carry, -7 yard performance fresh in our minds, Giants coach Pat Shurmur was asked during his media conference call on Saturday to assess the play of the 31-year-old Stewart.

Shurmur is putting more stock in Stewart’s pedigree than his preseason numbers.

“I just think he’s a veteran player and he’s played really well for a lot of seasons. If you just look at the raw production you say “oh my goodness,” but I think we’ve just gotta take it for what it is,” the coach said. “I know he can play football and play at a high level. We’re just counting on that.”

That would indicate that despite Stewart’s struggles it is a pretty safe bet that he will be part of the season-opening 53-man roster.

Here are more takeaways from Shurmur’s Saturday afternoon conference call.

On the struggles with run blocking

“We need to do a better job in all areas, whether it’s getting on the right people. There weren’t really missed assignments, so to speak, we’ve just really gotta get off the double teams a little quicker and hit it up in there and give the runner a little more room to get his feet going.”

On the effective use of play-action passing

“First off I got to it a little quicker. They [the Jets] were playing the run. The good news is some of our play actions were believable and that allowed us to get down the field a little bit with a little extra protection and then hit on some of our deep balls.

“There’s some games where it’s more effective than others. They were making a very strong effort to stop the run, so the next phase of it is try to take advantage of that a little bit.”

On moving Eli Manning out of the pocket occasionally

“I believe every quarterback needs to use his legs to some degree. And I do believe you have to move the launch point for the throws, which sometimes means the play-action game or moving the pocket. I believe in that, and I do believe any quarterback can do it to some degree. Eli moves around well enough to where he can execute some of that stuff.”