The Giants (6-3) come into Week 11 of the NFL season next to last in the league in rushing, averaging just 74.2 yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry. They have vowed to improve on those numbers during their bye week three weeks ago and recent results have shown that they are sticking to that promise.
Last Monday night in their win over the Cincinnati Bengals, the Giants rushed for a season-high 122 yards and averaged 4.5 yards a carry. Their time of possession of 31:23 was their second-highest of the season. They owned the ball for 34:07 in their victory against New Orleans on Sept. 18.
Could this be a sign of things to come? They have been splitting the carries between veteran Rashad Jennings and rookie Paul Perkins and have been employing extra blockers in some sets, including additional offensive linemen and a second tight end.
What changed during the bye week? Well, not much according to running backs coach Craig Johnson. The speed, timing and overall execution was the focus.
"I think that what Coach McAdoo said is that he was not really happy with how we were playing with the offense as a whole unit and every single thing needed to be looked at." Johnson told reporters Friday. "So we went back, as most teams do, and looked at all of our plays, how are we doing? What are we successful with? Do we need to do this more or less? So I don't know if it is so much that, I just think that specifically late in the game in both of our last two games that we have been in a really good rhythm and obviously I would like to have it for four quarters, but this is the NFL. They play good defense here, so I just think that the guys that come and answer the question and answer the bell of what has been asked of them."
They will face another one of those good defenses this Sunday in the Chicago Bears, who are 11th overall against the rush and are allowing only 3.7 yards per carry, seventh-best in the NFL.
That doesn't mean the Giants will not be attempting to run the football. Most of their run calls go nowhere, but of they sitck to it they have the backs that can break off a long one now every so often. On Monday, when the Giants needed to make first downs to close out the Bengals, Jennings ripped off a 25-yarder to break Cincy's back.
"I think Rashad is a big back that wants the ball. If you can give those big backs a chance to get going, get their shoulders downhill and get them a couple of carries under their belts and they have a chance to get into a rhythm, look at what happened at the end of the game because of that," said head coach Ben McAdoo.
That is, if the sidelines have some patience and balance out the game plan. Of course it depends on down and distance and personnel packages but they cannot continue to pass the ball 70% of the time and expect not to pay the consequences.
Thsi week, LG Justin Pugh (knee) and his direct understudy, Brett Jones (calf), will not dress for the game. In addition, Adam Gettis (calf), who was brought in to spell theother two, is questionable. It looks as if Marshall Newhouse, a tackle by trade, will get the call at LG this week.