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New York Giants Running Game: Digging Deeper

January 18th, 2013 at 1:00 PM
By Kyle Langan

In 2011, the New York Giants finished dead last in the NFL in rushing before surging to the tune of over 160 yards per game in the final six wins of the season. Just prior to 2011, Ahmad Bradshaw was named the starting back with Brandon Jacobs relegated to a backup role. In 2012, Jacobs was let go and the Giants drafted David Wilson out of Virginia. 

Wilson may have fit the "best player available" tag at the 32nd slot of the first-round last spring, but his selection may also be indicative of the fact that the Giants were not satisfied with their rushing attack. Particularly as it relations to the running back position.

Whatever the case may be, fact remains that General Manager Jerry Reese spent a first-round pick on a running back because he felt, to some degree, that an upgrade could be made.

Recently, Pro Football Focus came out with a statistic called pulse rate for running backs. Pulse rate measures the running backs yards per carry while eliminating runs over 10 yards (spikes in the pulse). 

Before delving into the rankings, consider the number of times Ahmad Bradshaw went for more than 10 yards on a run. The answer? Not very many. Although an exact number didn't come to mind, the eye test tells you that by comparison, Bradshaw does not make very many "flash" plays.

As it turned out, Bradshaw was actually 8th overall in Pulse average, gaining nearly 874 yards on runs of fewer than 10 yards. He Averaged 3.95 yards on those carries.

To our surprise, Andre Brown was 4th, gaining 4.07 yards per carry, but on merely 51 carries (to Bradshaw's 221). Our takeaway from this was that this is an indictment to Bradshaw (and perhaps exactly why the Giants chose to draft David Wilson).

C.J. Spiller, whom many Giants fans wanted in 2010 and can be compared to Wilson a bit in style, had the second highest pulse rate in the league at 4.23 on 207 carries. And what makes that so impressive is that Spiller had 16 runs of at least 15 yards, where a big chuck of his yardage came from during his impressive 2012 campaign. 

The difference between a back like Spiller and Bradshaw is that while both can matriculate the ball upfield, one can break a run for 70 or 80 yards and go the distance. 

If a running play is well blocked enough to get four or five yards (Bradshaw had a 4.5 yard average overall on 1st down), why not 70 or 80? There is not much else that the much maligned offensive line can do once they open the running lane. The back has to create some opportunities for himself.

While many Giants fans lush for a mauling offensive linemen to help boost the rushing attack (totally for it), perhaps at least part of the solution is already on the roster: David Wilson.

Wilson may not be the "workhorse" that Bradshaw is, but he may be the field stretching threat that changes the Giants offense moving forward. More than anything, the Giants must figure out some way to execute on their identity better in 2013: which is a run first team.

In 2008, and the latter parts of 2007 and 2011 (when the Giants have been at their best under Coughlin) they have run the ball extremely well. Bradshaw has been a good "contact hitter' so to speak for the Giants, but his lack of home run ability is somewhat hampering the team. In 2013 it will be critical to get David Wilson heavily integrated into the offense.

Photo Credit: Mike Gannon

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Tags: Ahmad Bradshaw, Andre Brown, Brandon Jacobs, David Wilson, Football, Jerry Reese, New York, New York Giants, NFL