Discussing the current New York Giants’ running back scene and which backs will be on the roster come the start of the regular season.
The New York Giants in 2018 had a much better running game than they had in the past. Despite a below-average offensive line, running back Saquon Barkley was the MVP for the Giants. His efforts put the Giants offense on the right track, as they started to vastly improve from the 2017 season.
The Giants actually scored 30-plus points in a game five times this past season. Before that, they hadn’t done that once since 2015. At the end of the day, Barkley was a huge reason for that.
However, Barkley isn’t the only running back on this roster that will get carries this year. There are a few guys behind him on the depth chart that can bring their talents to the table, along with a reliable full back. With an improved offensive line from 2018, the Giants’ running game could become extremely effective in 2019.
That being said, here’s what the Giants’ running back scene looks like going into OTAs and the summer.
Obviously, Barkley is a guy that every Giants fan knows and loves. Actually, it’s unbelievable that some people may still think the Giants should’ve gotten a quarterback instead of Barkley in that 2018 draft. Big Blue needed a quarterback for the future, in a draft class that was loaded with talent at that position. However, Barkley was a guy they simply couldn’t pass on. And good thing they didn’t.
Barkley rushed for 1,307 yards for 11 touchdowns and caught 91 balls for 721 yards and four scores through the air. His efforts won him the Pepsi Rookie of the Year and the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. He also made his first-career Pro Bowl.
There’s no argument here; Barkley will retain his spot as the starting back for the Giants. He proved to be a generational talent and he’ll continue to do that in 2019.
Wayne Gallman was drafted by the Giants in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft at No. 140 overall. Since then, he’s mostly worked as a backup running back, actually becoming the No. 2 running back in 2018. In his two-year career, Gallman has had 652 rushing yards on 3.5 yards-per-carry and one touchdown, along with 48 receptions for 282 yards and one touchdown.
Gallman proves to be an elusive back that can make some great moves in the open field. He’s not Barkley, but he doesn’t need to be. Gallman is exactly what you’d expect from a fourth-round pick. He can be effective in the passing game and is reliable and ready to go on plays where Barkley needs a breather.
The third-year man out of Clemson will most definitely make the final roster once the regular season begins. He won’t crack the starting lineup as long as he’s on the same team as Barkley but don’t be surprised if the Giants eventually offer him a new contract. He’s slated to be an unrestricted free agent after the conclusion of the 2020 season. Gallman has done good things for the Giants’ offense, and the coaching staff and front office have noticed he’s a good complement to Barkley.
Paul Perkins is still on the roster? Yes, believe it or not, he is. Perkins was supposed to be the Giants’ starting running back for the time being at the start of the 2017 regular season. The Giants drafted him in 2016 in the fifth round out of UCLA. He had a promising rookie season, eventually taking playing time away from previous Giants running back Rashad Jennings.
In 2016, he had 456 rushing yards on 4.1 yards-per-carry through 14 games. However, in 2017, he had only 90 rushing yards on 2.2 yards-per-carry through 11 games. Injuries have plagued much of his young career thus far, as he was on the injured reserve list for the entire 2018 season.
If Perkins doesn’t mightily impress coaches this offseason and in training camp, he may be released prior to the regular season. It’s just not worth it at this point. If Perkins is just going to get hurt again, there are other running backs on the depth chart to look after that are more worth it.
The Giants recently signed former Dallas Cowboys running back Rod Smith last Wednesday. Smith rushed for 127 yards and one touchdown in 16 games for Dallas last season. However, Smith rushed for two touchdowns in a game against the Giants in 2017. Big Blue obviously have seen something they liked, which is why they signed him.
At 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, Smith could be used as an effective power back that could complement both Barkley and Gallman. He’ll only end up on the team for a few years at the most, but for right now, Smith can be very beneficial if used the right way.
Prediction is that he won’t get released prior to the regular season, and will end up getting on the stat sheet a little bit for the Giants.
Jon Hilliman is the youngest running back on the roster. He’s an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers that’s looking to come into OTAs and training camp and proves he’s worth the signing.
At 5-foot-11, 216 pounds, Hilliman isn’t the biggest guy on the roster. However, looking at his highlight reel, you notice right away that he’s a very powerful back in the open field. He’s kind of like Smith, except Smith actually has experience running the football in the NFL. Hilliman is still a young guy who hasn’t learned a pro-style system yet.
If Hilliman does make the Giants roster, he would most likely be the fourth guy on the depth chart. However, you never know. Maybe he impresses coaches more than Smith and/or even Gallman.
Elijhaa Penny was the fullback on the Giants roster this past season after he was signed week three off the Arizona Cardinals practice squad. Having appeared in 14 games and starting in three, he had seven rushes for 25 yards and eight receptions for 50 yards.
Of course, as a fullback, you’re not going to be on the stat sheet much. However, Penny had an above-average Pro Football Focus grade of 68.6. He proved to be a good blocking fullback for Barkley, and it was a big reason he was re-signed this offseason.
Penny will be back in 2019 as the Giants fullback, as he isn’t a complete running back. No chance he’s cut. Penny proved his worth last season.
Regardless of how the depth chart at the running back position stands, Penny will be lead-blocking for Barkley and co.