New York Giants fans often reminisce over the days of their powerful rushing attack. They were the days when feature backs like Tiki Barber, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Brandon Jacobs carried the ball. In recent years, however, this powerful rushing attack has been non-existent. Fortunately, Giants fans can rejoice as this is the year that the G-Men will finally have a 1,000-yard rusher again.
Paul Perkins Will Be a 1,000-Yard Rusher
Stepping in for the now free-agent Rashad Jennings, second-year running back Paul Perkins ascends into the role of the Giants’ first-string running back. Head coach Ben McAdoo’s announcement of this change took place early in the offseason. This is indicative of the Giants faith in Perkins’ abilities and that the job is his to lose. Perkins certainly flashed glimpses of his potential during his rookie season. His statistics, albeit limited, indicate that he will have a bright future. This past season, the Giants’ offense struggled mightily to perform at a level of consistency needed by a team that wishes to make a deeper push in the playoffs. The Giants repeatedly struggled to maintain drives. They forced their defense to bail them out in a number of situations throughout the season. While the Giants’ defense had a massive turnaround in 2016, the Giants’ offense needs to have a similar turnaround in 2017. With the Giants possessing a franchise quarterback and arguably the best receiving corps in the league heading into the season, the area the Giants will have to focus on improving is the run game.
In 2016, Jennings rushed 181 times for 593 yards averaging only about 3.3 yards a carry. These are not the kind of numbers a team is looking for out of their starting running back. In fact, they are indicative of why the Giants parted ways with Jennings. Perkins, on the other hand, rushed 112 times for a total of 456 yards. This averages out to about 4.1 yards per carry, a very respectable average especially for a rookie. If we take this average and multiply it to be representative of what Perkins’ stats would have looked at had he had the same number of carries as Jennings, his season total would have been about 742 yards. This is over 250 yards shy of the coveted 1,000-yard marker. Therefore, in order for Perkins to hit this goal, his average yards per carry must go up, and his number of attempts must significantly surpass those of Jennings.
Looking at Perkins’ yards per carry, an important thing to note is that his yardage per game steadily increased over the last seven games of the regular season. In this span, Perkins averaged 4.3 yards a carry. In Perkins’ final three games when the Giants really started to utilize him, he rushed for 4.8 yards a carry. While 4.8 yards a carry would be extraordinary for the Giants offense, a 4.5-yard average is a difficult, yet slightly more reasonable expectation for Perkins heading into 2017. If the Giants can consistently pick up this type of yardage with their starting tailback, it will pay dividends in the offense maintaining drives and getting into scoring position.
The main concern with Perkins reaching the 1,000-yard mark is that a certain kind of volume is requisite for this goal to be attainable. If we take the 4.5-yard average we are looking for out of Perkins and multiply it by the 181 carries Jennings received last season, we get around an 815-yard season. While this number is not too shabby at all, Giants’ fans can expect more than this out of the offense and Perkins. In a perfect world, Perkins would average 4.5-yards a carry on 223 attempts. This would put him at just over 1,000 yards on the season. However, this provokes the question of where these extra 42 carries are coming from.
While 223+ carries may be a lot for Giants’ backs, it is not unreasonable when you look around the league. Last season, 13 running backs carried the football over 225 times. Leading the league in yards and attempts, division foe Ezekiel Elliott had 322 carries. While the Giants are likely to rush more this year, Perkins attempts will come no where near that kind of volume. Rather, a comparable backfield situation can be seen with the Atlanta Falcons. Devonta Freeman, a back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher, toted the rock 227 times in 2016 while splitting carries with Tevin Coleman (118 attempts). Perkins, like Freeman, is likely to split a chunk of carries with Shane Vereen and Wayne Gallman. However, as demonstrated by Freeman, this does not mean that the rushing volume will not be there. A 1,000-yard season is still certainly within grasp.
In 2017, the Giants will go back to basics and revamp their rushing attack. Paul Perkins will be at the forefront of this improvement. A large part of the Giants success rests on his shoulders. If Perkins can maintain his average with around 225 carries, he should be the first 1,000-yard Giant rusher since 2012.