It was ironic when the traditionally run-first New York Giants finished last season with the worst-ranked rushing offense in the National Football League.
Despite their shortcomings, the Giants went on to win Super Bowl XLVI. But what will the team's running game look like this season? And can they once again thrive without a potent ground game?
There will be some changes in the backfield in 2012. Bruising running back Brandon Jacobs is gone (released, then signed by San Francisco) and rookie David Wilson, the team's 2012 first-round pick out of Virginia Tech, figures to get plenty of carries. The speedy back rushed for a school-record 1,719 yards last year. However, the Giants' running game ultimately will be led by five-year pro Ahmad Bradshaw. Can he still carry the load?
Bradshaw, who in the offseason had surgery on his right foot for a stress fracture, should be at full speed when the 2012 season begins. But you have to wonder if his hard-running style has taken a toll on his smallish frame. He missed four games last year as his yards per rush dropped to career-worst 3.9 from 4.5 in 2011. Bradshaw, who signed a four-year, $18 million contract extension last year, finished the season with 659 yards rushing and nine touchdowns.
Fortunately, Bradshaw, who ran for a career-high 1,235 yards in 2010, doesn't have to carry the offense. That's quarterback Eli Manning's job now (the G-Men had the fifth-best passing game in the NFL in 2011). However, the Giants still need Bradshaw to be the No. 1 running back. Wilson probably will take time to learn the playbook, including blocking assignments, and D.J. Ware (81 career rushes) is the only other experienced running back on the roster. If they can pitch in, the Giants won't need Bradshaw to run for 1,000 yards. But they will need him to be at 100 percent.
Adam Martini is a freelance sports writer who proudly wears his Rodney Hampton jersey on Sundays during the football season. He grew up in Queens, N.Y. rooting for the Giants despite being surrounded by Jets fans. You can follow Adam on Twitter @PegCitySports.
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