Wayne Gallman is entering his fourth season with the New York Giants, but is his ultimate future with the team in jeopardy?
It’s reasonable to make the argument that the running back position is the spot on the offensive side of the ball where depth is the most crucial. Relief for any offensive line slot is also of significant importance, but running back serves as an extremely physical position where it seems injuries are racked up every single week.
Just ask the New York Giants, who had star running back Saquon Barkley deal with injury-related issues last year en route to just surpassing the 1000-yard rushing mark. Backups were called upon amid a shortage at the position in three consecutive games, a string of matchups Big Blue’s front office hasn’t forgotten about whatsoever.
This offseason, the Giants have re-signed Elijhaa Penny to a two-year deal, acquired 29-year-old Dion Lewis in free agency, and signed Maryland’s Javon Leake as an undrafted free agent.
So with these numerous moves pertaining to just one position, is it clear to say that Wayne Gallman‘s future in blue isn’t guaranteed?
Let’s make this clear: Barkley will carry a noteworthy percentage of the load in 2020 unless he succumbs to health-related issues once again. So anyone else on this roster will just be a depth piece, and it doesn’t seem like the separation of merit between many of these individuals is significantly large in size.
That’s what could hurt Gallman prior to the 2020 campaign. He may not hold much more value than the others and one slip-up in the training camp or preseason periods could render his Giants future nonexistent.
Let’s take a look at some of the other options.
Penny is most definitely safe, considering he’s more of a fullback and will be used in short-yardage situations. He was decent at the job during the 2018 and 2019 seasons, respectively notching 68.6 and 57.7 Pro Football Focus grades.
Lewis also isn’t likely to succumb to a release prior to September’s (hopeful) regular-season commencement. The Giants wouldn’t sign a player like this just to part ways with him a few months later (the Odell Beckham Jr. trade is a different story) and he would actually fit well in the team’s offense.
Over the last two seasons in Dallas, current Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett greatly utilized the running back in the passing game. After earning 39 targets during his 2016 rookie campaign, Ezekiel Elliott earned a career-high 95 targets in 2018. He then saw 71 targets in the passing game this past year.
Lewis was used in that area during his time in both New England (2015-17) and Tennessee (2018-19). During the 2015 season, Lewis saw 50 targets in the passing game with the Patriots. He then earned 67 targets with the Titans in 2018, catching 59 of those balls for 400 yards and one score.
Lewis additionally has the edge on Gallman when it comes to experience, having spent time with five different teams since his 2011 entrance into the league. Not to mention, his efforts on the Patriots’ Super Bowl 51 team is an obvious plus to his resume. Gallman has just three years under his belt thus far after the Giants chose him in the fourth round (No. 140 overall) of the 2017 draft out of Clemson.
Not to mention, during his trio of seasons with the Pats, Lewis spent time alongside new Giants head coach Joe Judge, who was New England’s special teams coordinator at the time. Gallman, on the other hand, doesn’t have familiarity playing for his new coaching-staff leader.
Leake is a raw prospect but he likely won’t compete to be the No. 2 back on the depth chart. Instead, the Giants will probably work him out where he succeeds: the return game.
During his junior campaign at Maryland, Leake earned first-team All-Big Ten honors for his efforts as a kick returner and additionally won the conference’s Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year Award.
In 2019, Leake returned 30 kicks for 804 yards and two scores, averaging 26.8 yards per return. This could help the Giants tremendously, considering the organization didn’t employ a consistent kick returner last year. Defensive back Corey Ballentine, who Leake may compete against, returned just 10 kicks for 256 yards (25.6 yards per return) in 2019.
Corey Coleman can also return kicks — 23 returns for 598 yards (26 yards per return) in 2018 — but it’s unclear how effective he’ll be coming off a torn ACL.
Leake possesses his on-field niche, and it’s not the same as Gallman’s. Wayne has yet to return any kicks or punts in the NFL. Thus, expect the Giants to keep Leake on the roster if he impresses in these regards.
Gallman’s best bet may be to battle for a roster spot against 2019 undrafted free agent Jon Hilliman, who started one game last year and appeared in three. Hilliman found himself on the practice squad for much of the 2019 season, but that in no way means he’ll be a part of the same story in 2020.
Remember, Judge is making it clear that every spot on the roster and depth chart must be earned, and if Hilliman catches more eyes throughout this coaching staff than Gallman does, it could lead to the end of the former Clemson Tiger’s tenure in blue.
Expect Gallman to be an individual worth paying attention to during the training camp and preseason periods. Because as was said before, one slip-up could lead to a roster cut. Simple as that.