With the recent release of workhorse running back Ahmad Bradshaw, Wilson is expected to be the lead dog in the backfield in 2013.
The rookie came on strong late in the season and bounced back nicely from his opening night fumble on the national stage. But now that Bradshaw is gone, the Giants will have to be a little more patient with Wilson as he continues his development.
The thing about Bradshaw was that he was a “workhorse” but only when he was healthy. As tough as it is to see the heart and soul of the team get released, this was a move the Giants really had to do based on salary cap issues. It’s too much of a gamble to pay an oft-injured player that kind of money.
Wilson brings a different dynamic than Bradshaw. Bradshaw was more of a power runner who could break off big gains but really didn’t have breakaway speed.
If Wilson can get into the secondary, he has the potential to turn every carry into a touchdown. If he stays healthy, he’s going to be a tremendous offensive weapon.
Though he’s been so effective on kickoff returns, it’s unlikely he’d continue that responsibility if he is the primary running back. The Giants could put him back there if the team needs a big return, but let the kid just focus on one major responsibility at a time.
Just because Wilson is the assumed starter at running back, that doesn’t mean he can sit back and relax. He still needs significant work in his pass blocking, especially in blitz pickup.
Nothing is going to be handed to the second-year player, nor should it be. The Giants need a strong running game to compliment Eli Manning’s passing attack, so that unit will have to work hard in the offseason to get Big Blue back to sustaining long, ground-and-pound drives.
Though Wilson is set to get the bulk of the carries at running back, the Giants will need some insurance options in the backfield.
Andre Brown will be coming off a broken fibula, but when he played in 2012, he was extremely effective. The team will likely bring him back on a one- or two-year deal as the secondary back.
Brown was at his best near the goal line, and he led the Giants with eight rushing touchdowns despite playing in just 10 games.
Based on the recent history of injury at the running back position, the Giants will likely try to bring in a few more options to round out the unit.
Kregg Lumpkin and Ryan Torain were brought in as insurance last year, so maybe one of them will be an option.
As far as the draft, the Giants hold the 19th overall pick. The best running backs available are South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore, who is coming off a major knee injury, and Alabama’s Eddie Lacey, who burst onto the scene in the National Championship game. But the Giants are expected to use this pick on either a defensive player or an offensive lineman.
So that leaves free agency, trades or the later rounds of the draft to try to acquire another back. Some of the big name free agents like Steven Jackson, Reggie Bush, Rashard Mendenhall or Cedric Benson will be way out of the Giants’ price range.
But maybe the Giants can bring in a guy like Shonn Greene or Chris Ivory. Greene is coming off a year in which he averaged a career-low 3.9 yards per carry, while Ivory is fourth on the Saints’ depth chart behind Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles.
Danny Woodhead is also a free agent, and he would be just as versatile in the passing game as he would be in the running game. He would be especially a threat on screen plays.
Probably the Giants’ first choice would be to re-sign Brown, who is familiar with the system. But if one of these other backs were available for cheap, Big Blue would certainly explore those options, even if they also choose to retain Brown. The more offensive weapons, the better.
But regardless of whom the team brings in as a secondary back, it’s Wilson show. He has the tools to be an effective back and now just needs to put it all together at this level.
Follow Jim Mancari on Twitter @JMMancari.