First of all, there is no distraction. The only distraction would be if Tiki went into retirement mode early and we don't see that happening. There have been published reports that this is nothing more than a ploy to get the Giants to pony up on a new contract so that he can finish his career here. While we truly believe that he is a unique character in a world full of mercenary players, we believe this is where he wants to be and he doesn't want to play for another team. We've all known for some time that he has a budding media career waiting for him when his playing days are over and we don't mean being a field reporter, studio talking head or analyst. Even though he could easily handle those jobs, his media career could be so much more than that. So, while many will miss him on the field, we are glad to see him walk away on top. We wouldn't want to see him become an Emmitt Smith or Jerome Bettis who hung on and played as mere shadows of their former glory, just to set a rushing record or try to win a Super Bowl. Barber has too much class to do that. It's refreshing to see a player who can do something else successfully with his life without hanging around the game.
Since Tiki is going to retire after this season, is his successor currently on the team?
We have been spoiled by Tiki. Barber is a unique back. He is not a big back although at times he runs like one. He has great vision, balance, quickness, power and durability. He catches the ball well too and he's great at blitz pickup. What he doesn't have is great straight-ahead speed. Ever notice how when he breaks a long one he almost always gets caught from behind? It's really kind of funny because most people think speed is the most important trait for a runner, but it's not and Tiki proves that point. He has spoiled us over the years.
We certainly hope Jacobs will be Tiki's successor. We know he is being groomed for the role of the feature back and he deserves the chance to succeed Tiki. Now, whether Jacobs is the answer or not is unknown. We've only seen limited glimpses of him, mainly in situational play. What we've seen has been excellent. There are many of us who, after he makes a big run dragging defenders for extra yards or he completely runs over them, wish we could see him used a little more. We've even thought about what it would be like to have Jacobs and Barber in the same backfield. Jacobs is remarkably quick and agile for a big back. He appears to have good vision. He is far from the typical big back plodder that we often see. If he were, he would have immediately been transformed into a fullback. He can be more than that; he can run with the ball. He is not a bad receiver, but he needs to continue to improve that skill. The same thing can be said about his blitz pickup ability. Barber is great at it; Jacobs can be but he's not there yet.
One thing that concerns us is whether he would hold up over a long season. Big backs by nature take a pounding. They don't run around a lot of tacklers. Every time a big back avoids a solid hit it is a good thing, but that goes against the nature of who they are. Try to coach a big back to run like a small back and avoid hits and what you have is Ron Dayne, who's basically useless and totally frustrating. The shelf life of an average running back is not long and it's even less for a big back. The pounding they take is too great and it takes its toll. To make matters worse, Jacobs runs high by nature. Running low with the proper body lean helps shield the runner from some of those big hits and it also helps them to protect the ball. So where are we going with this? Jacobs gets the job by default and he deserves to get it, but they should strongly consider drafting another RB on the first day of next year's draft.
What about Derrick Ward?
We haven't seen him at all this year because of an injury, but he seems to be best suited to a reserve role. We would certainly have him back next year and let him compete, but we would be shocked if he ever became their feature back.
Who are some of the college RBs the Giants could consider where they would likely be drafting (lower first round)?
Senior Michael Bush from Louisville is a big back that broke his leg. He has good quickness and running instincts. He's probably a little too similar to Jacobs than they would like but he is a great talent. Junior Adrian Peterson from Oklahoma hurt his shoulder. He's a dynamic runner who has all the makings of a great NFL back. Because both of these guys are injured it may cause them to slip somewhat in the draft and it's not out of the question that one or both could be there for the Giants. If they want to groom a guy who is more like Tiki, that guy would be Kenny Irons from Auburn. He has very similar size and attributes to Tiki. He's smaller than ideal at 5-10 and 200, but they use him in a one back set because he can run with power. He just doesn't have a lot of bulk in his hips and thighs. In our opinion, he's probably the closest thing to Barber in college right now. Of course, that in no way suggests he will have the same career as Tiki.
What about an offseason trade for a RB?
A trade might be difficult. They would be looking at guys who are second-string backs now with the ability to be a feature back and that is always a gamble, plus many are being groomed like Jacobs to take over for someone. There are a couple of backups who are interesting to us. San Diego has Michael Turner sitting behind LaDainian Tomlinson. He has looked good in limited playing time. Atlanta has Jerious Norwood behind Warrick Dunn. He has looked spectacular and we have no doubt he could be a feature back, but Dunn is closing in on retirement so it's doubtful they would move Norwood. Tennessee has three backs – Chris Brown, Travis Henry and Lendale White – but we would take our chances with the draft rather than paying the price for one of them.
What about some free agent RBs to be in 2007 who could fit the starting RB role for Giants?
Utilizing the free agent market for RBs is usually not a good idea. This year's crop is not that exciting. It will have names like T.J. Duckett and Ladell Betts from Washington and Marcel Shipp from Arizona. All are serviceable backs but not that exciting. There are two guys who are of some interest to us. Baltimore's Musa Smith has had an injury-filled career to date, but he is healthy and playing well. He's big, strong, and he can catch. He is also a physical runner. The other guy we like is Nick Goings from Carolina. He can do a lot and play special teams as well. He's a hard-nosed overachiever who would look very good behind Jacobs and wouldn't cost a lot. Our opinion is to promote Jacobs and draft a first-day running back. That seems to be the best bet right now.
Only Time Will Tell
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