Running backs Jalen Simmons and Robert Martin are two young New York Giants running backs vying to earn a roster spot final roster.
At the conclusion of the NFL Draft, fans knew the New York Giants were stacked at the running back position with rookie Saquon Barkley, second-year running back Wayne Gallman and veteran Jonathan Stewart all employed.
But as we learned in OTAs and minicamp, the Giants backfield is one of their deepest and most talented positions due to young Jalen Simmons and Robert Martin.
Both Simmons and Martin are strong runners that can catch passes coming out of the backfield which is ideal for Pat Shurmur’s offense because he’ll have running backs lined up all over the field.
Despite the versatility each man brings to the offense, they know that with the three running backs ahead of them (Barkley, Gallman and Stewart) they must not only excel when lined up in the backfield, but also make a contribution on special teams.
— Jason Leach (@JasonKLeach) August 7, 2018
Pat Shurmur spoke earlier this week on the importance of special teams play.
“I think the special teams’ contribution that a guy can make can help him make this team,” Simmons told Elite Sports NY. “You’ve heard us say it before, but fourth down players – and there are some guys that are going to make this team because of their value on fourth down, and then they’ll be role players on first, second and third down. So, certainly, what they do on teams matters.”
The 5-foot-7, 213-pound Simmons played for South Carolina State from 2011-2015. In his four seasons with the Bulldogs, he rushed for 2,626 yards and scored 17 touchdowns.
— Jason Leach (@JasonKLeach) August 3, 2018
Simmons’ dad was a big Dallas Cowboys fan and anytime the Cowboys played the 49ers, the now Giant watched the ultra-consistent Frank Gore whom he attempts to model his game after.
Simmons went undrafted in the 2016 draft but has spent time on the Chargers and Carolina Panthers practice squad.
The Giants signed Simmons to a reserve/future contract with them in January and he is making the most of his opportunity.
In OTAs, he was taking reps with the second-team offense and in one of the training camp practices he made a profound statement when he took a handoff up the middle and ran over linebacker Calvin Munson.
Simmons explained what it’s like to be coached by Giants running back coach Craig Johnson and to have a mentor like Jonathan Stewart on the team.
“Coach Johnson he’s good, he’s smart, he’s been a coach for many years and I’m learning from him and he learns from us. We have a good group in the running back room, with Johnathan Stewart being the veteran in there, and I was with him in Carolina for two years so I was learning from him down there, and now us being coach by Coach Johnson has been great, we have a great little mesh.”
Though young, he already feels blessed to wear that Giant blue.
“It means a lot the first thing when you walk in you see the four Super Bowl trophies which is big especially for me coming from a small school in South Carolina State, we have a big history at South Carolina State that includes former Giant Harry Carson. So as far as me I’m trying to live up to the expectation that he set you know with him coming from the same school. There’s also a feeling when you walk in the building about the history of Giants football, big fan base, playing in the tough NFC East, it’s just great to be a Giant.”
Just as the case was with Simmons, walking into the Giants facility for the first time left a huge impression on Robert Martin.
“It’s a nice facility with a lot of tradition, you see the Lombardi trophies right when you walk in,” Martin told Elite Sports NY. “It’s a great environment and a place where you want to be.”
Martin played for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights from 2014 to 2017 where he rushed for 2,274 yards and scored 18 touchdowns.
Despite battling injuries during his college career, Martin averaged 5.1 yards per carry in his four years at Rutgers which is the same average that Wayne Gallman showcased in college.
Martin went undrafted in this past draft, but the Giants signed him to a contract on May 14 following the team’s rookie minicamp. Since then he’s been working with the he’s shown that he’s a hard worker that’s eager to make the most out of his opportunity.
The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Martin grew up in Harrisburg, PA and while you would think he would be a Giants fans or an Eagles or Steelers fan, he was actually a fan of the New Orleans Saints. Martin explained how he became a Saints fan.
“It’s a funny story back when Nintendo 64 was out there was a game called NFL Blitz and my brother would make me pick the worst team in the game that was the Saints. So eventually it just stuck with me and eventually, they did win a Super Bowl years later.”
Martin also credits his older brother for getting him involved in playing football because his older brother was playing and his mother was hesitant to let him play football. But Martin’s brother convinced her to let him play and he began playing football at the age of six.
During my conversation with Martin, he also spoke about how coach Johnson has helped him make the transition from college to the pros.
“He’s helped me a lot, he just knows the ins and outs of being a running back and the game. He’s been around for a while and he’s just taking it one step at a time with us and making sure we’re staying up to speed.”
Barkley and the rest of the Giants running backs going through position drills. pic.twitter.com/rqhriOeaLu
— Jason Leach (@JasonKLeach) August 1, 2018
To say that Martin and Simmons have been staying up to speed during training camp would be a huge understatement. They’ve both shown they have what it takes to play in this league as they’ve been competing against defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s aggressive defense every day in practice.
It’s unknown how many running backs the Giants intend to keep on their roster. They may decide to keep just four which means Simmons or Martin will be the odd man out. But they can produce in the preseason the same way they’re produced on the practice field, cutting one of them would be one of the hardest decision the coaching staff will make.
Jalen Simmons and Robert Martin will see their first action as Giants on Thursday night in the preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns.