Rashad Jennings seems to fit the Tom Coughlin mold of what a running back should be.
Jennings, a seventh-year pro who will turn 29 in late March, isn’t fast or flashy or impressive in any way that would make him a staple of post-game highlight shows. He blocks well — really well — he doesn’t fumble the pigskin and he doesn’t try to make something out of nothing, moving north and south instead of east and west.
Jennings, signed by the New York Giants on Tuesday after a fine seven-game stretch in 2013, is solid and dependable. He very well could be the flesh-and-blood example of what Coughlin thinks a runner should be.
Giants beat writers are split on how Jennings will be deployed some the fall, with The New York Daily News instantly projecting him as the team’s No. 1 back and Tom Rock of Newsday pointing out that Big Blue still hopes David Wilson — that beleaguered fantasy football albatross — can “be the guy” in 2014.
“They’re just covering themselves in case he can’t,” Rock tweeted a couple hours after Big Blue agreed to terms with Jennings.
Is this surprising? Should fantasy footballers be stunned that the Giants would seek viable alternatives to Wilson after he missed most of the 2013 campaign with a neck injury that threatened his career? There were times last year when it seemed Wilson’s chance to ever grace the gridiron again were no better than a coin flip.
The Giants were not going to roll into 2014 with Wilson, Peyton Hillis, Michael Cox, and a few training camp bodies competing for carries behind Eli Manning. They were always going to explore the limited free agency running back pool, and they did just that. Good for them.
If you follow me on Twitter, you know my stance on Wilson. He’s a transcendent talent with a downright terrifying downside. Fumbles, shoddy pass protection, and refusing to take what he’s given instead of trying to break the Big One make him a risky proposition. Nothing has changed in this regard. Not one thing.
Dan Graziano wrote in September, right after Wilson fumbled his way out of a starting gig on opening night in Dallas, that bailing on big investments like Wilson “is not the way [the Giants] do business.” Wilson, Graziano reminded readers, was 22 years old with a grand total of 78 carries headed into his second professional season.
Remember, this was written six months ago, but still applies to Wilson’s prospects today (unless his recovery from neck surgery isn’t going as splendidly as reported).
“It’s entirely possible he’s not ready to be the superstar feature back everybody seems to want to rush to make him,” he wrote. “The Giants want and need him on the field … and they don’t really believe a fumbling problem is going to derail his promising career. They believe they can get him right, and if that means bringing in someone to ease the load and maybe tilt that spotlight a little bit so it’s not shining right into the depths of his pupils, then maybe that’s the right answer.”
Graziano continued: “He’s still a supremely talented young player with a bright future. The Giants’ job is to help him manage his way into and through that future, whatever it takes. Fortunately for Wilson, they are an organization that understands this and will keep the big picture in mind.”
Maybe Wilson never becomes a guy who gets 230 touches and leads fantasy owners to the promised land. Perhaps he’ll be used sparingly, with giant stat lines and miniscule outputs scattered across the 2014 season. What else would you expect from the 41st running back coming off of mock draft boards?
People swore off Wilson well before Jennings became the unquestioned shining star of the New York backfield. There’s almost no scenario in which he’ll rise above a late-round draft pick this season, meaning that the risk of drafting Wilson is now built into his asking price. That wasn’t the case in August 2013.