How in the world will the Giants survive without all-time leading rusher Tiki Barber? Can Brandon Jacobs and Reuben Droughns even come close to picking up the slack for the best back Giants fans have ever seen? The answers? No one knows, which is what is certain to make training camp and the upcoming season all the more exciting. Will the 2007 Giants running game be a bore? Or will Jacobs and Droughns prove that they were born to run? TGI weighs in.
Can Barber's backfield production be replaced?
The simple answer to this question is of course not. Leading rushers in franchise history don't exactly come around every few years. But a combination of offensive additions and changes sure could do the Giants good. Brandon Jacobs gets his first chance to be the man, and, at 264 pounds, he'll obviously provide a much tougher, more physical rushing style than Barber. Whether or not he can sustain a high level of play for an entire season is another story.
On the other hand, Reuben Droughns is an NFL proven back, having twice topped the 1,200-yard plateau in his career. So then why is Jacobs being given the first crack? Because the Giants think that highly of him.
A good combination of the two can definitely get the job done, but to think they'll make Giants fans forget about Barber that quickly is absurd. That's where the rest of the offense is going to have to step up. Better play all around should be able to mask some of what Barber took with him when he left.
One positive is that the loss of fullback Jim Finn to a season-ending shoulder injury won't be felt as much as it would have if Barber were still around. Jacobs and Droughns are both bigger than Finn and won't require as much help from a straight-ahead lead-blocking standpoint.
Can they consistently move the sticks?
With Barber gone and Jacobs in the featured back role, who, exactly, is going to be in charge of converting third downs? Barber had an innate ability to get to the marker, while Jacobs smashed over and through defenders in moving the sticks more often than not. A surprise contribution here might come from seventh-round pick Ahmad Bradshaw, who can catch the ball out of the backfield and could possibly excel as a third-down specialist. That should keep defenses off-balance. As always, the key is to get into manageable situations on third down. Needless to say the odds are better of converting a third-and-two than a third-and-seven.
Will they be better in '07?
Of course not. To even entertain that question is absurd. Tiki Barber was magical; he made something out of nothing more times than memory can recall. There's no way the new tandem can do what Barber did – or, quite honestly, even come close. But that's just fine. That doesn't have to be a problem. All Jacobs and Droughns have to do is produce in this offense. Run smart and tough and hold onto the ball. The worse thing that can happen is they end up hurting the offense by trying to do too much. The sooner everyone realizes and accepts that Barber's gone and he's not coming back, the better off everyone will be.
Strength of unit: The depth and versatility. Bringing in the 220-pound Droughns for Jacobs isn't exactly going to allow defenses to breathe any easier.
Weakness of unit: Not sure if you heard or not, but Tiki Barber retired. No matter how you slice it, that's going to hurt.
Key additions: Reuben Droughns. Any time you can get a two-time 1,000-yard rusher basically for free, the GM should be lauded.
Key losses: Did we mention Tiki Barber yet?
Darkhorse: Ahmad Bradshaw. Not only can he contribute as a third-down receiving back, he might also make some noise as a change-of-pace runner and special teams return man. Perhaps someone from the trio of Ryan Grant, Decori Birmingham and Cedric Humes can raise some eyebrows as well.
On the spot: Robert Douglas. With Jim Finn sidelined, Douglas will be called on to step up as the club's fullback. Although you can expect to see New York utilize many FB-free offensive formations this year.
Tough act to follow: In his final season in New York, Barber rushed for 1,662 yards and averaged more than five yards a carry. Last season Droughns (758 yards) and Jacobs (423) combined for 1,181 yards and an average of less than four yards per pop.
Experience glass no longer half full: Jim Finn has played in 106 career NFL games. His replacement Robert Douglas has played in none.
Will there be life after Tiki?
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