2:55 pm Aug. 13, 2012
We had heard that David Wilson was fast, but that description applies to a lot of guys who don’t make it.
The montages where he ran away from the defenses were impressive, sure, but standard fare for any running back who gets drafted. They’re playing against inferior college players. Their team probably won those games by 30 points.
The montages are for the imagination, the best-case scenario fantasy. But seeing these guys in an NFL uniform against other NFL players provides the first real basis for evaluation. And after Friday night, Giants fans (at least those who stuck around until the end of the third quarter, when Wilson got his first carry) are very high on their new running back.
What separates the guys who are fast from the guys who play fast is the ability to accelerate and the feel for when to do so. To borrow a concept from Madden, everybody has a speed burst; it’s all about knowing when to press it. Wilson, when given any room, exploded through holes last night, first for 26 yards and then for 17.
He had shown his speed earlier on a 48-yard kick return, where he started off on one side of the field and then cut laterally to outrun the contain man on the other side, freeing up for himself a large stretch of daylight. Impressive as that was, it didn’t answer one of the knocks we’ve heard about him: That he perpetually looks for the home run, and in so doing forgoes the steady chunks of yardage that keep an NFL offense “on schedule.”
But on Friday night, Wilson didn’t hesitate to hit the hole. His burst came within the confines of the blocking scheme and with good timing, and was under control. Take his first big play, a draw, on which he split the daylight between a defender and block and ripped through for 26 yards before the defense knew what hit it. Then, on a sweep to the outside, he patiently waited for his fullback’s kickout block to turn up into the seam, then dashed for a quick 16.
It was only one game, but it was encouraging. Because the Giants need someone to make big plays in the running game. Last year, they finished dead last in runs of 20 yards or more, with four. As far as runs of 40 yards or more, the Giants along with seven other teams, had zero. This at least partially accounts for the fact that the Giants were last in yards per carry with 3.5, compared to a league-wide average of 4.3.
Ahmad Bradshaw is the starter again this year, and while it’s likely his best years are behind him, it’s just as likely that he’s due for some sort of rebound from a season in which he gained a career-low 3.9 yards per carry, compared to a career average of 4.6. Last year, Bradshaw had only 3 carries of 20 yards or more, but had 13 in 2010 and six in 2009.
Bradshaw’s effectiveness hinges largely on the state of his chronically troublesome ankles and feet, one of which received a bone marrow injection this offseason to facilitate healing. If the injection keeps Bradshaw healthier than he was last year, and with Wilson replacing a largely ineffective Brandon Jacobs, it's like that the Giants’ running game will improve significantly from last season.
THE BAD NEWS FOR THE GIANTS IS AT THE CORNERBACK SPOT OPPOSITE Corey Webster.
Prince Amukamara has the first crack at the starter’s job while Terrell Thomas heals from anywhere from three to eight weeks from what exploratory surgery revealed to be a “stretched” MCL. Amukamara did not acquit himself well on Friday, and hasn't since he became a Giant.
It was really just two bad plays, but they came in close succession, and he only played a few series anyway.
The first was poor coverage on an out-route, on which Amukamara was frozen at the top of the receiver’s route and got lost after the receiver broke toward the sideline. The play came on a 3rd and long and went for 29 yards, setting the Jaguars up at the Giants’ 11-yard-line. A few plays later, on 3rd and 1, Amukamara allowed an endzone fade for a Jaguars touchdown.
There were mitigating factors on both plays: On the 29-yarder, Amukamara was in one-on-one coverage with an entire side of the field to defend. On the touchdown, he was also one-on-one with no help, meaning that on both plays he was responsible for defending both an inside and an outside move.
Of course it’s early and this isn’t a huge deal. The sensible thing to do is to wipe the slate clean from Amukamara’s poor rookie season last year, during which quarterbacks posted a 125.0 rating and a 70 percent completion percentage when they threw in his direction.
But games start counting in less than a month, and it seems more likely than not that Thomas won’t be healthy by then (if ever this year).
Even though general manager Jerry Reese said when training camp started that “expect[s] Prince to play like a first round pick,” it’s reasonable to wonder how long the Giants will wait for this.
IF THE LIKES OF KEVIN BOSS AND JAKE BALLARD can blossom while playing with Eli Manning into above-average contributors, then surely it’s not too much to expect that Martellus Bennett will as well, right?
Good signs in the first game: Bennett caught all three of his targets for 27 yards, including a third down catch and an impressive touchdown catch on which he leapt, contorted his body in the air, and plucked the ball with his hands at its highest point.
Afterward, Bennett stayed true to his eccentric reputation, saying, “I almost cried after I scored because I’ve been through a lot the last four years – a lot of ups and downs. I was very unhappy with the situation I was in [in Dallas].”
So the guy’s a little loopy. We knew that. But what’s Game 1 of the preseason good for if not convincing oneself that Bennett was misunderstood in Dallas, and that the Giants just got themselves a steal for the low price of $2.5 million?
LAST YEAR, EVERYBODY WAS RIPPING ON ELI OVER over the stupid “Elite” thing. This year, he has a beard that is decidedly not elite. But who’s gonna tell him that?
CONTRARY TO WHAT CARL BANKS SAID during the telecast, Jerrel Jernigan did not drop that endzone fade pass or try to catch it with one hand. Rather, he was blatantly interfered with by Jacksonville’s Will Middleton, who pinned down Jernigan’s arm and thus forced the one-handed attempt. On the next series, Middleton interfered with Jernigan again by grabbing him and throwing him out of his break, but again it went uncalled.
That’s too bad for Jernigan, and perhaps the non-replacement refs would have called one of these. But the guy is small, and it seems problematic that he’s so easily manhandled on the field.
Giants fans will recall Sinorice Moss as a cautionary comparison. Jernigan, a late third-rounder, came in with less fanfare than Moss, an early second-rounder, and nobody’s buying the guy’s jersey like they were with Moss. But he sure cuts a similar figure on the field: Extremely small, without the electrifying quicks to make up for it.
HOW MANY LONGTIME GIANTS FANS DID A DOUBLE-TAKE AT THIS IMAGE?
More by this author:
- Gary Cohen, the anti-Michael Kay, also broadcasts during his time off
- Blue blood: The harsh logic behind the cutting of Bradshaw, Canty and Boley