Big Back Brandon more than just short yardage

The days of an enormous No. 27 hesitating his way to failure after taking a handoff from Eli Manning are over, because Brandon Jacobs just isn't built for first-contact tackles.

The Giants' unusually large fourth-round draft pick promised that he'll convert critical third-and-one plays into first downs, which would rectify what was one of the Giants' primary problems in 2004. The Giants succeeded on only 13-of-27 of their third-and-one plays, and just one team was worse in those situations last season. The drive-destroying Dayne, who was signed recently by Denver after a disappointing five-year career with the Giants, was often the culprit.

"When I know it's short yardage," Jacobs said, "I don't pitter-patter behind the line of scrimmage. I know the down and distance. I know where I have to go, so I get the rock and I barrel down and I just get in. Just one person won't stop me from getting what I want. It's going to be a couple people."

Whether Jacobs justifies this talk with production remains to be seen, but the former Southern Illinois standout is already different from any other tailback in the league, even before his first professional carry.

At 6-4, 265, he is the biggest tailback on any of the NFL's 32 rosters. The onetime Auburn back is also far larger than two of the Giants' three starting linebackers – Barrett Green (6-0, 225) and Antonio Pierce (6-1, 240). And if you thought 6-3, 235-pound Eddie George and 6-1, 255-pound Keith Byars were big backs, wait until you see this guy get in the backfield.

Imagine Michael Strahan with more speed and agility.

"He is not only tall, he is large," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said after assessing Jacobs at the team's rookie minicamp. "He is carrying a lot weight, but he is carrying it very well. His strength is outstanding and he has done a really good job with his body. So let's just see where we go with this thing. He is a big strong athlete who has good speed and has the desire to want to be a football player and certainly he is going to have every opportunity."

Seventh-year veteran Mike Cloud and second-year man Derrick Ward will also attempt to lessen Tiki Barber's burden this season. Cloud showed some promise last season, but injuries prevented him from getting consistent work. Ward wants carries, too, and that's fine by Jacobs, because he is used to fighting for opportunities.

The Napoleanville, La., native transferred from Auburn to Division I-AA Southern Illinois before the 2004 season because opportunities were limited in an unbelievable backfield that featured Ronnie Brown and Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, who went second overall to Miami and fifth overall to Tampa Bay in the first round of the draft last month. Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville tried switching Jacobs to linebacker before the Tigers' bowl game early in 2004, but didn't think the experiment would work. Jacobs wanted to red-shirt, which would've afforded him carries once Brown and Williams were in the NFL, but the coach opted against it and Jacobs, a junior college transfer to Auburn, headed for a lower level.

"I knew if I was going to make it," Jacobs said of the decision, "I knew I was going to make it no matter where I went."

Southern Illinois' backfield was crowded, too, though.

Fellow transfers Terry Jackson (Minnesota) and Arkee Whitlock (Coffeyville, Kan. Community College) were effective, but Jacobs still scored 19 touchdowns and amassed a team-high 992 yards on only 150 carries. He was also unknowingly preparing for life with Coughlin as he impressed NFL scouts with a 6.6 yards-per-carry average. Southern Illinois coach Jerry Kill is an aggressive disciplinarian as well, so Jacobs won't be bothered when Coughlin comes yelling.

"I think it really will help," said Jacobs, who averaged 6.7 yards per carry in four collegiate seasons for three schools. "Because I'm a coachable kid. The more you coach, no matter in what way, that's the better player you are. A coach will coach you the way he wants to, to make you a better player. And I don't have any problem with coaches yelling in my face and telling me this and telling me that. That just motivates me to do well and not want to screw up again."

Jacobs hopes his critics don't screw up by assuming he's just a short-yardage specialist. He loves short-yardage and goal-line situations, but he isn't restricted to succeeding from such short distances.

"I'm a downhill runner, but I can get outside when I need to," Jacobs said. "My size has never gotten in the way of anything I needed to do laterally or whatever. I can deal with any situation I'm put in."

General manager Ernie Accorsi and Coughlin, meanwhile, were clear that they don't envision moving the gigantic Jacobs to fullback.

"Brandon Jacobs is a big, strong, powerful guy," Coughlin said. "He had a lot of numbers wherever he played. You could see the short yardage, goal-line power. I think there is more to him than just that, but that is a nice starting point."


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