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Elijhaa Penny: How big will fullback’s role be for Giants?

Penny isn’t a classic fullback, but he’s a good player

NFL: OCT 06 Vikings at Giants
Eli Penny carrying the ball in 2019.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I can’t help it. Every time I think about New York Giants fullback Elijhaa Penny the picture that pops into my head is those weekly in-season Saquon Barkley press conferences in the Giants’ locker room with Penny, who lockers next to Barkley, curled up on the floor — or sometimes folded all the way into his locker — just chilling on his phone and taking it all in as Barkley dealt with the media mob.

That, though, has nothing to do with Penny the player and whether or not he can help the 2020 Giants. Let’s take a closer look.

The basics

Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 234
Age: 27 in August
Position: Fullback
Experience: 3
Contract: Year 1 of two-year, $2.2 million deal | Guaranteed: $335,000

How he got here

The Giants plucked Penny off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad early in the 2018 season. He played in 14 games that season and in all 16 in 2019. Last season, injuries forced Penny to be a ball carrier in a couple of situations and he ended up with 15 carries for 39 yards, just 2.6 per attempt.

His primary job, though, is clearing holes for Saquon Barkley. The Giants under Pat Shurmur did not use the fullback a lot, with Penny playing just 12 percent of offensive snaps in each of his two seasons with the Giants.

2020 outlook

Way back in January I wondered if the Giants might look for a fullback who is more of a road grader than the 2345-pound Penny, a bulked-up collegiate tailback. Former Pitt fullback George Aston, a 6-foot, 240-pounder, is on the 90-man roster. We will just have to wait until training camp to see if there is a real competition there.

In case you’re wondering, since 2012 the Dallas Cowboys — coached by current Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett — used a fullback but did not rely heavily on one. The past two seasons, Dallas fullback Jamize Olawale played 11 percent of the offensive snaps for the Cowboys.