A deeper look at the four New York Giants reserve running backs competing for the three available final-roster spots.
At the moment, the New York Giants employ five running backs on their preseason roster. This doesn’t include Elijhaa Penny, who’s most likely looking to retain his role as the starting fullback. Therefore, the five includes Saquon Barkley and, as most people would say, “the other four.”
Well, that “other four” happens to be Wayne Gallman, Rod Smith, Paul Perkins, and Jon Hilliman. Each has their own talents and each has something to offer for this organization. However, with four reserve running backs comes with most likely only three reserve spots. My guess is that the Giants won’t keep five running backs along with their fullback on the final 53-man roster.
That means in the coming weeks, the Giants will have to make a decision on which back they’ll ultimately have to part ways with.
Let’s take a look at each of these potential reserve running backs and eventually come to a prediction on which one will have to say goodbye to the Giants organization.
The Giants drafted Wayne Gallman in the fourth round (No. 140 overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Clemson. He’s been a reserve running back since 2017. However, Big Blue definitely sees something in this guy that they like, being that they’ve used him in multiple ways over the past two years.
In 2017, Gallman had 111 rushing attempts for 476 yards (4.3 yards-per-carry). He additionally was targeted 48 times in the passing game, catching 34 balls for 193 yards and a touchdown.
Of course, his production lessened when the Giants drafted Saquon Barkley. Gallman only rushed the ball 51 times for 176 yards (3.5 yards-per-carry) and a touchdown. He was also only targeted 22 times with 14 receptions and 89 yards through the air.
Both years he’s been on the Giants, Gallman has finished second on the team in attempts, rushing yards, and yards-per-carry. His rankings as far as production in the passing game decreased from year No. 1 to year No. 2, though. In his rookie year, he was fifth on the team in targets and receptions, as well as eighth in receiving yards. In his sophomore NFL campaign, he finished seventh on the team in targets and receptions, along with finishing ninth in receiving yards.
His production and the Giants’ need for him has decreased, yes. That’s usually what happens when a generational talent at your position comes along onto the same team. But, there’s reason to believe the Giants won’t part ways with him just yet.
If the Giants didn’t take Barkley in that 2018 draft, Gallman most likely could’ve been their starting running back last year, and possibly into this year.
Think about it. After the 2017 season, the Giants let both Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen walk. Paul Perkins (who we’ll get to later) was on injured reserve for the entire 2018 season. The Giants hung onto Gallman through all the running back troubles they had prior to selecting Barkley, which shows they have faith in him.
For the plays Barkley needs a breather, Gallman isn’t a bad second option either.
All of this, in my opinion, will eventually lead to the Giants keeping Gallman this year and possibly beyond that. His contract runs through the 2020 season, so we’ll see how that eventually pans out.
The Giants signed veteran running back Rod Smith to a one-year deal in May worth $805,000. He spent much of the last four seasons in Dallas, having been Ezekiel Elliot’s backup from 2016-18.
Last year, Smith rushed the ball 44 times for 127 yards and a touchdown for the Cowboys. He also caught nine balls for 60 yards.
Despite the tallest running back on the roster (6-foot-3) and one of the heaviest (231 pounds), Smith can actually move a lot better than you think. Looking at film from his performance in the last preseason game against the Chicago Bears, Smith can definitely make his cuts and has good enough vision to find the hole early.
He only had six rushes for 12 yards (2.0 yards-per-carry) against the New York Jets in their initial preseason game. But he definitely put on a better showing the Chicago game with 10 rushes for 42 yards (4.2 yards-per-carry).
Smith can be used on short-yardage downs as well as near the goal line due to his big frame, making him a reliable role player on this offense.
Don’t be surprised if he gets some playing time this year especially when it comes to those types of situations.
Oh, and yes, I’m predicting he makes the team.
Leading up to the preseason, many fans probably went “Paul Perkins? He’s still on the team?” To be honest, I wouldn’t blame you if those words came out of your mouth.
New York drafted him in the fifth round (No. 149 overall) in the 2016 NFL Draft. After backing up former Giants running back Rashad Jennings, Perkins was the starter heading into the 2017 season.
Perkins only played 11 games during that 2017 season, having dealt with some injuries. He then was waived and put on season-ending injured reserve for the entire 2018 season. Perkins had a non-football pectoral injury he had been dealing with all year.
Despite his struggles in the first preseason game against the Jets (one fumble, one dropped pass), Perkins seemed to be running hard in the second game against the Bears.
With six rushes for 35 yards along with two receptions for 30 yards, Perkins shows that he’s still an athletic option at running back who can turn on the jets when he gets into the open field.
I would take him over the rookie Hilliman for the final reserve running back spot, just because of the edge in experience he has. Perkins will need to impress though this year if he wants to be a Giant past this season. He’s currently in the final year of his four-year rookie contract.
Jon Hilliman is an undrafted rookie out of Rutgers University. He previously played three seasons with Boston College.
Last year for the Scarlet Knights, Hilliman averaged 4.1 yards-per-carry with 337 yards and six touchdowns. He also caught 12 balls for 92 yards in 11 games.
Being that he’s the only rookie on this spread of running backs on the roster, Hilliman definitely has the most ground to cover. However, he’s made some progress since training camp and the first preseason game where he left early with a suffered concussion.
In the second exhibition game against Chicago, Hilliman rushed for 56 yards on 16 carries (3.5 yards-per-carry) with a touchdown. He shows good speed and he can definitely make his cuts and show athleticism as a back.
He just needs to stay healthy, that’s the only problem. Already dealing with an injury this early on isn’t the best sign going forward, despite the recovery process not lasting that long. If he stays out of the trainer’s room, I truly believe he can definitely produce for a team at some point.
Just … not the Giants for right now. I predict this man will be the lone one out and won’t get the job as a reserve back going forward.
He has a lot to learn, and I’m sure he’ll improve as time goes on. However, Big Blue just doesn’t seem like they have a spot for him right now.