With their leading rusher from a season ago Orleans Darkwa a free agent and not having any veteran running backs on their roster, the New York Giants filled that void by signing Jonathan Stewart.
The signing of Stewart was received with mix reaction amongst fans because the New York Giants did need a veteran running back, but Stewart is coming off a career-low 3.4 yards per carry and he’ll turn 31 next week.
But Stewart still believes he has a lot left in the tank, and he’s a player that general manager Dave Gettleman trusts. He’s also a great locker room guy which is something the Giants are in need of after how tremulous it was last season. Gettleman told Michael Eisen of NYGiants.com:
I am very pleased that we were able to make Jonathan a New York Football Giant. He is a quality runner with power and speed and brings a veteran, professional presence to our locker room. He’s a terrific addition for us at this time.
Stewart spent all of his 10 seasons in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers from 2008-2017. He is the Panthers all-time leading rusher with 7,318 yards, and second in rushing touchdowns with 51.
He was a valuable part of the 2015 Panthers team that went 15-1 and made it to Super Bowl 50.
Gettleman is very familiar with what Stewart can bring to the team having been the Panthers general manager from 2013 to July 2017.
Although Stewart is not the player he once was, Gettleman feels he’s the exact player the Giants need on and off the field.
“I’ve got a lot left.”
— New York Giants (@Giants) March 14, 2018
Here’s what the addition of Stewart brings to the Giants
1. He has a nose for finding the end zone
As we mentioned, for his career he has 51 rushing touchdowns and last season he scored six rushing touchdowns. As a team, the Giants only had six rushing touchdowns.
Five of Stewart’s six rushing touchdowns were inside the five-yard line. We all know how the Giants have struggled to punch it in from the goal line, so expect Stewart to be the Giants goal line and short yardage back.
2. Winning experience
The Panthers have made the playoffs in four of the last five seasons. In contrast, the Giants have missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons.
So he’ll bring a winning culture and attitude to the locker room which is needed since so few Giants have experienced being part of a winning team. Bringing a player that knows how to win is an invaluable intangible that will pay dividends for the Giants this season.
3. Will be a mentor to the Giants young running backs
Currently, the Giants have two young running backs on their roster in Wayne Gallman and Paul Perkins. As it stands now Gallman who’s entering his second year in the league is slated to be the starter which means he’ll be taking a much larger role than he had a season ago when he ran the ball 111 times.
Perkins, who is entering his third year in the league, is coming off a disappointing 2017 season where he averaged just 2.2 yards per carry and lost his starting job to Darkwa, and was supplanted on the depth chart by Gallman. He may need to have an impressive training camp and preseason if he’s going to make the roster.
Stewart knows how demanding and trying life can be as an NFL running back so he will be a mentor to Gallman and Perkins not just on what to do on the field, but how to handle tough situations that come with being an NFL running back.
This won’t be something new to Stewart who was a mentor last season to rookie Christian McCaffrey.
4. He can wear down a defense
Not only will he mentor the other Giants running backs but he’ll see plenty of time on the field when the Giants want a physical presence in the backfield. Of the current running backs on the roster, Stewart is the only experienced bruising running backs the Giants have at 5-foot-10 235 pounds.
So when the Giants want to wear out the defense and run some clock off, they’ll call on Stewart.
Some fans may have preferred the Giants acquire a younger running back in free agency such as Jerick McKinnon, Carlos Hyde, or to even bring back Darkwa. But the Giants feel Stewart is the right man who can help turn around a 3-13 team into a contender.