The Giants are looking to turn around their running game in 2017. Here's a closer look at what to expect...
Projected Starter: Paul Perkins
Projected Backups: Shane Vereen, Wayne Gallman, Shaun Draughn
On the Bubble: Orleans Darkwa, Khalid Abdullah
Departures: Rashad Jennings
It was a year to forget for the Giants' running backs last season. They finished 29th in yards gained (1,412) and yards per game (88.3), 30th in yards per carry (3.5), and dead last in touchdowns (6).
Rashad Jennings was the featured back to start the season, but his production was abysmal. He averaged 3.3 yards per carry on 181 attempts, and totaled only three touchdowns in 13 games.
Rookie Paul Perkins, a fifth-round pick out of UCLA, saw more playing time as the Giants tried to get something going on the ground.
He showcased his abilities later in the season, especially in the final regular season game against the Redskins, where he totaled 102 yards on 21 attempts. Overall, he amassed 456 yards on 112 attempts on the ground, and 162 yards on 15 receptions.
With Jennings being released this offseason, Perkins appears to be the No. 1 back entering training camp.
Signing veteran Shane Vereen from the Patriots last season, the Giants looked to add a dynamic piece to their backfield. A formidable pass-catcher, he was set to be the Giants' third-down back when the season started.
However, Vereen had a tumultuous year.
Vereen tore his triceps in Week 3 against the Redskins, which forced him to miss about two months. When he returned in Week 14 against the Cowboys, he took a huge hit on his first catch that forced him out the rest of the game due to concussion protocol. He was cleared to play the next week against the Lions, but the triceps tore again, ending his season.
Vereen has been taking his rehab slow, not forcing himself onto the field too early as he wants to be a weekly contributor this season.
The Giants added some competition this offseason as well. Clemson's Wayne Gallman was taken in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, while Shaun Draughn was scooped up via free agency from the 49ers.
A national champion last season, Gallman scored 17 touchdowns while averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He brings power to the Giants' backfield, which is needed with Jennings gone.
Similarly, Draughn is a power back who will likely compete with Orleans Darkwa and Khalid Abdullah for the fourth roster spot in the backfield. The Giants will be his seventh team in seven years in the league.
Biggest question heading into camp
The only positive taken from this unit last season was Perkins' final four games. He showed that he can be a versatile back, and maybe a starting running back in the future.
Well, that future is now
Head coach Ben McAdoo has said Perkins is "the next man up" with Jennings out of the picture. So, the question is: Can Perkins make an impact as the Giants' featured back this season?
Running backs coach Craig Johnson believes so, considering the improvements he sees in his game since entering the league. There was speculation that Perkins couldn't block NFL pass-rushers, and that was the reason for his minimal use to start the season.
As time progressed, he improved tremendously in that respect, and his natural ability at the position shined when he had the ball in his hands.
"I think as he progressed last season you started seeing flashes that he needed to get more time on the field," Johnson said. "We gave him more time on the field later and he showed a lot of the things that you're looking for from a guy that can be a starter in the league."
It will be Perkins' position to win or lose this season. Vereen will most likely be a third-down specialist, and Gallman could find himself in the same situation as Perkins last season, with limited touches as he gets acclimated to the Giants' system.
The key word with Perkins is "potential," and just what that will translate to on the field is up for interpretation.
As Johnson alluded to, when Perkins saw more time on the field, he showed glimpses of being a starting back. He can weave through small holes at the line of scrimmage and has the ability to make tacklers miss in the open field.
However, don't expect Perkins to make the backfield turn a 180. The Giants have been in the lower half in rushing for the past few seasons, and there is much to improve on before they reach the middle of the pack, let alone the top-ten.
The running backs shouldn't focus on making flashy plays. Leave that to the passing game. This season, they should simply look to pick up positive yardage and reach the end zone. That will begin their climb to reviving the running game, with Perkins leading the pack.