The Giants have struggled to run the ball for years. And after sputtering again in their preseason-opening loss to Pittsburgh on Friday, coach Ben McAdoo was critical of the ground game in general and starter Paul Perkins in particular.
On Sunday, McAdoo said Perkins has a chance to establish himself, implying his hold on the starting running back job is tenuous at best. While Orleans Darkwa is eyeing that spot himself — admitting he wants to wrest the first-team spot away — the fact is the Giants need to run the ball better, no matter who is toting it.
“We’ve definitely been a more physical offensive line, but at the end of the day, we can and will do better,” said guard John Jerry, who struggled along with center Weston Richburg, against the Steelers. “Sustaining blocks, finishing plays, we have to get better at giving the quarterback more time, sacks. All of those things we have to get better at.”
After finishing 29th in the NFL in rushing last season, Big Blue mustered just 73 yards on 23 carries against Pittsburgh.
“It’s one game. We’re not going to let two or three series deter us,” Jerry said. “We’re going to stay focused. We looked at the tape [Sunday] morning, went out on the practice field and corrected it already and just keep it moving.
“We have to keep hammering at it. One thing about this league, you can start off a game and runs aren’t going to be looking good; they’re just going to be 2-, 3-yard carries. But if you continue that throughout the game, those 2-, 3-yard gains turn into bigger gains later in the game.”
It hasn’t happened the past few years, and it didn’t happen Friday. Perkins started and ran for just 3 yards on five ineffective carries, including a 7-yard tote on his first carry that McAdoo said should’ve gone for far more.
“At the running-back position, Paul Perkins has an opportunity to go out and establish himself,” McAdoo said. “I look forward to seeing him getting more carries as we go through the preseason and into the regular season.”
Darkwa, after splitting some first-team reps last week with Perkins, had the better night Friday with 18 yards on three carries.
Despite starting off camp on the proverbial bubble, he has seen Shaun Draughn and Wayne Gallman injured and played himself not into a little security but into a position where he at least can dream about overtaking Perkins for the starting job.
“Oh, yeah, of course. Any running back, if you don’t have the mentality that you want to be the guy, then what are you doing?” Darkwa said. “I try and go in there with that mentality that — obviously [McAdoo] said [Perkins] is the starter — but try to go in with the mentality that I want to be the starter and take his job.
“I think that pushes everybody. Obviously, [Perkins] is not going to be complacent at that position. He wants to make sure he solidifies that spot, and every running back in that room is trying to do that same thing.”
The Giants allowed too much push Friday and allowed seven sacks. They also saw the running backs thrown for losses far too many times. And that’s not just on the offensive line, but the fullbacks and tight ends as well, tight end Matt LaCosse said.
“People think he’s just talking about the offensive line when he says that stuff, but we’re just as part of the [run game as] the offensive line,’’ LaCosse said. “We need to get movement and hit our keys and be able to be versatile … come off the ball and man our guy up — because most of our blocks are man-blocks — just be able to take on those big defensive ends by ourselves.
“Of course there are certain schemes that help certain positions out more than others. But there’s some schemes where you just have to man up and do it, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
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