On the Chopping Block: Rashad Jennings

When healthy, veteran running back Rashad Jennings was a productive player and locker leader for the New York Giants, but with injuries piling up and creeping up to 30-years-old, will Big Blue keep the talented but injury prone ball carrier?

Rashad Jennings had a disheartening time during his first season with the New York Giants, constantly battling injuries to stay on the field. After signing a four-year deal during the offseason, it’s a wonder if the G-Men will retain the 29-year-old running back’s services for the 2015 NFL season.

Jennings did manage to appear in 11 games, but his production clearly took a hit following a month-long absence from Week 5 to Week 11 with a knee injury. Through the first five weeks of the season, he was the league’s 10th-best running back when carrying the football., according to Pro Football Focus. When he returned, he was far less effective and ranked among the worst backs in the NFL over his final six games.

He finished the year rushing for 639 yards over 167 carries (3.8 yards per carry) with four touchdowns, adding 30 receptions for 226 yards.

At times, Jennings was a reliable ball carrier who could do everything the Giants asked. He could’ve been a lot more productive catching the football as he dropped five passes and had the third-worst drop rate in the league, but he is still an adept pass catcher. His presence as a receiver out of the backfield was vital to the offense’s success, and he clearly fit the mold of what Ben McAdoo would love to have in a running back.

For those reasons alone, the Giants should retain Jennings in 2015 while looking for other options in this year’s draft to fill the void when he inevitably goes down with an injury (Jennings was injury prone before he got to New York) or should they let him walk following the season. The free-agent crop of backs isn’t ideal for the Giants to replace him (save for DeMarco Murray, who New York is unlikely to spend big to get), but the draft class has some promising prospects to be had in the middle rounds, such as Miami’s Duke Johnson or Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford.

Jennings is a viable enough option to split time with Andre Williams for one more year. He will provide a level of continuity necessary for the Giants as they continue to grow into their new offense.

If he can actually remain healthy for the duration of the season, they might even be able to get strong enough production out of him to be a competitive team in the ground game, opening up more opportunities for Eli Manning to connect with receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle down the field for big gains.

Is Jennings the ideal option for the Giants? Absolutely not. But in a league that undervalues the running back and an offense that is predicated on a spread passing game utilizing three and four-receiver sets, the G-Men don’t need even a top-15 back to be successful.

It’s unlikely Jennings lasts the duration of his contract with the Giants, but it seems pretty fair to assume he’ll be back with the team in 2015. A strong campaign would be a welcome surprise, but consistency in the running game would undoubtedly suffice. Jennings can deliver that paired up with Williams, as long as the Giants get some improved blocking up front.

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