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Giants training camp 2015: Orleans Darkwa impresses in preseason opener

Running back coach Craig Johnson reflects on the state of the running backs after their first preseason game.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Who would have thought that Orleans Darkwa would steal the show during the first preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals? The New York Giants have a trio of solid running backs with Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen and Andre Williams. Yet it was the left out Darkwa who was the most effective against the Bengals, with nine carries for 52 yards. Not only did the game put Darkwa on the map for most fans, he grabbed the attention of the Giants running back coach, Craig Johnson. In fact, he was the only Giants running back to grab his attention.

"I would say that our guys, I thought, were okay. I don’t think they really stood out. They didn’t not lose the game, but they didn’t help win it. I told them all they need to pick it up as a unit. I think we can do a better job," Johnson said. "One thing I will certainly single out is I thought Orleans Darkwa really had a good game in every phase. He did a good job running the ball, which everybody can see those stats, but he also did a really good job in his pass protection and his passing game routes where he was supposed to be.

"I thought he really showed good speed to the hole, but I think even more so, I think he did a great job of setting up his blocks. And if you really go back and watch the film and verified that, that he was really in good timing with his line, and he knew how to get right to the hole and explode it through the hole and he had really good finishes."

While Darkwa stole the spotlight,  Johnson gave insight on all of his running backs. The acquisition of Vereen has excited most fans as he adds a new dimension to the Giants offense.

"I think Shane brings a lot to the table. He’s a veteran, he knows what he’s doing, he’s smart, he’s tough, he can make a lot of plays both in the run game and the pass game," Johnson said. "I think he brings a lot to the table from his experience and we can use him in a lot ways. We can use him on early downs, we can use him on third down, and so far he’s really acclimated to our system. "

The progression of Andre Williams has been a positive for the running backs coach.

"I think Andre did a really good job," Johnson said. "He was our leading rusher as a rookie last year. I thought he started off kind of slow. He started understanding the game, understanding his pace and timing to get into the hole, he found out that in the NFL, holes close really quickly, but I think he’s done a really good job. He has tirelessly worked on the stuff he needed to work on."

Last but not least, the lead rusher of the Giants last year, Rashad Jennings, also received praise from the running back coach.

"I would probably say this about Rashad, he is one of the hardest workers I know. He trains religiously," Johnson said. "I would say, like myself, both of us are second year in the offense. I think from that alone, he works hard for the game both on and off the field and that is where I think he is probably going to make his greatest improvements. It’s just being more comfortable in our system in his second year."