New York Giants running back Paul Perkins showed promise in his rookie season, but now he must show he can be a starter. The Giants lost their starting back, Rashad Jennings, this offseason, and they have yet to bring in a replacement. Although Jennings wasn’t great last year, the Giants will miss his pass blocking and veteran presence. Going into the year with a second-year player as the starter could be dangerous for this team.
It makes sense for New York to trust Perkins, as he flashed his talent towards the end of the season. In his second game against the Eagles, Perkins rushed 15 times for 68 yards and a solid per-carry average of 4.5 yards. In his first 20-carry game against the Redskins, Perkins showed power and speed, rushing for more than 100 yards. His pass blocking was weak early on, but he seemingly improved as he saw more action on passing downs late in the year.
Perkins becoming the starter isn’t the issue; the issue is replacing Jennings. No one was concerned about losing Jennings as a runner, but losing him as a leader is concerning. Jennings constantly led the pregame rallies for the offense and showed an ability to keep everyone motivated and on task. The addition of Brandon Marshall to the roster could help that veteran presence. Of course, Marshall has had his own leadership questioned in the past.
The Giants still have Shane Vereen, but they can’t count on him to be healthy for the majority of the season. Vereen is a strong player, but he has always been a pass-catching utility back, not a leading rusher. His presence and championship experience could help, but it won’t replace Jennings’ vocal leadership.
There were (and still are) some veteran running backs NY could have signed to help its young backfield. Adrian Peterson was available and interested. Jamaal Charles is still out there. Even a proven winner like LeGarrette Blount could have been helpful.
The Giants could still make a run at an available back, but he would have to come cheap. They won’t have the cap space to sign some of the big name veterans. Money is tight after last year’s spending spree and Jason Pierre-Paul’s new contract, and it makes sense they don’t want to overpay an old running back. Still, they may come to regret it.
This will be the first year since 2013 that this franchise enters the season without a talented, experienced running back. 2013 also happens to be one of the worst years of Eli Manning’s career. Unfortunately for the Giants, adding veteran know-how isn’t an issue they can address in the draft, and they’re probably too late to address it in free agency.
Paul Perkins and the young backfield may flourish in his first year as a lead back, but he could also falter. Only time will tell, but the Giants should at least be a little worried.