Giants Start Over in Running Game
Giants training camp does not open until July 27 at the University of Albany. The offense, defense and special teams will all begin reps getting prepared for the pre-season games and the start of the regular season. But there will be a void in the backfield. Number 21 will be suiting up in the NBC studios instead of the practice field for two-a-days.
Tiki Barber retired after 10 seasons and will be a part of the NBC Sunday Night Football/Football Night in America broadcasts, as well as the network's 'Today' show. For his career, the 5-10 back out of Virginia ran for 10,449 yards for a 4.7 average and 55 touchdowns. He ran for over 1,000 yards in six out of his last seven seasons.
Barber decided to hang it up at the young age of 32 because he did not want to leave the game an old man with lingering injuries. He cannot be faulted for that, and he does have the right personality and appearance to succeed in his new career. But his leaving left new general manager Jerry Reese in the position to immediately fill a hole.
The Giants do have Brandon Jacobs, who rushed for 423 yards a year ago while scoring nine touchdowns. He is capable of grinding it out with his 6-4, 264-pound frame. But his inexperience may be a factor with him entering only his third year in the league. In the offseason, the Giants acquired seven-year veteran Reuben Droughns from the Cleveland Browns, who rushed for 758 yards in 2006 and has had two seasons of over 1,200 yards on the ground. Training camp will decide who gets to be the number one back or if Jacobs and Droughns will split the carries.
"I think philosophically one thing is that I am much more prone to feature one back, but then use other individuals in certain situations during the course of the game," said Giants head coach Tom Coughlin during an interview last month on www.giants.com. "I think to get the kind of firepower we want; I have always thought you had to have two backs. And you have to be able to compensate one for the other as the long season begins to wear and tear on any one guy. So I think, and it may not stop at two, I hope we can identify two or three guys, for example, that can play in certain roles and they can be the lead guy in those roles. And if someone emerges that is having a kind of year, or game, having the kind of game that you dream about, let that guy have the priority of playing time."
Major Tom being vague once again. Whatever decision he finally makes, the blocking back will also be a work in progress. Jim Finn, last season's fullback, was placed on injured reserve following shoulder surgery and is out for the season. The only other FB on the roster is first-year pro Robert Douglas out of Memphis, who said to reporters, "I've been playing fullback since high school. In college, I got a little away from that because we ran a one-back set. But senior year they moved me back to it and I was blocking for DeAngelo Williams. I hardly ever got the ball then, but we had success - he put up 2,000 yards and 23 touchdowns with me in front of him, so I really have no problem with it. I just have fun playing football."
Douglas has never played in an NFL game and was signed by the Giants last December after spending time with the Tennessee Titans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Houston Texans.
Whatever way it shakes out, Big Blue will have a completely different look in the backfield. They will certainly miss the moves of Barber and the spark that he brought to the team. If the possible 'backfield by committee' has a rough start, it may be a long season at Giants Stadium.