Giants, Jacobs, Both Need Old Jacobs Back

The Giants need Brandon Jacobs to run like Brandon Jacobs is capable of running. They don't look like they need much of him these days the way Ahmad Bradshaw's ripping off chunks of yardage. But the Giants need Jake to be the 1,000-yard back he's been in each of the past two seasons. They need him to set the tone by trucking helpless defenders the way he used to on a weekly basis.

That's why it's imperative that Jacobs focus on one thing and one thing only: improving.

And maybe that has been Jacobs' one and only focus all along. Maybe we make too much of the way he sounds sometimes: like he's feeling sorry for himself or slighted by the media, like he's placing an ''I'' in Jacobs.

Jacobs has never come across as a selfish player. He was the first guy to applaud Derrick Ward's contributions as a complementary back last season. Jacobs has never seemed to worry much about his statistics as long as the team is winning.

But Jacobs has seemed like a different guy this season. The Giants are winning as much as possible, 5-0 heading into New Orleans. Yet Jake's still acting like he's being asked to share a locker-room cubicle with arch-enemy Patrick Crayton of the Cowboys, or grab the check after dinner-for-two with Tony Siragusa at Peter Luger Steakhouse.

Jacobs has always taken out his anger and frustration on opposing defenses. He's always used his reservoir of emotions as a weapon. Now he's coming across as more frustrated than focused.

His mood swings have coincided with Bradshaw's emergence. Bradshaw's getting a lot of positive ink, and for good reason, while Jacobs is being critiqued more than ever, and for good reason.

Jacobs averaged 5.0 yards a carry his first season as a starter in 2007. He averaged 5.0 yards a carry last season. He went into Sunday's game averaging 3.6 yards a carry.

There is simply no denying Jacobs' struggles heading into the Saints game. It's not all his fault. It can't be all his fault. But it can't be everybody else's fault either.

"It is what is is, like I said,'' Jacobs said leading to the New Orleans game. "I am carrying the ball and people see me, nothing else. So I can take the blame for that because a lot of people don't really know what is going on.

"I am not worried. It is going to come. As long as I finish where I finished the last couple of years, I am fine. It is going to come together.''

He was asked if his struggles are easier to handle with Bradshaw excelling. "Not really,'' Jacobs said. "He is a different style runner from what I am. A lot of the stuff suits him perfectly. If someone is running free, he is able to see him real quick, make him miss and do something. Me, I am 6-4, 265 pounds. I am supposed to run into people. I am supposed to take somebody on. That's me. If I don't do that, I am terrible.''

Actually that's not true. Jacobs is expected to gain yardage – period. Nobody cares if he does it by leaving cleat marks on stomachs or by leaving defenders in the dust. In fact, he'd be considerably better off in the long run if he discovered a method of consistently gaining yardage without sacrificing his own body parts.

Jacobs hasn't been terrible, not by a long shot. He just hasn't been the bruising back we've grown accustomed to seeing on a weekly basis. Maybe he's already started to wear down. Maybe he's trying too hard, if that's possible, as Bradshaw continues to develop into an electrifying back.

Or maybe defenses have found ways to stop Jacobs, like using a safety to shadow him or reading plays with Jacobs in the game.

Jacobs' situation has yet to reach the level of crisis. But the season is young. You can bet Giants coaches are itching for Jacobs to have a breakout game. They have massaged him as best they can, reminding him of his value in other areas such as blocking. But Jacobs continues to pay too much attention to the stat sheet.

"I just think his stats are not as high as the success he has experienced in the past,'' offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "He wants to do more, which is good. I think that is what he feels; he wants to be an effective runner because he knows our team needs that.''

Let's hope that's Jacobs' only concern. "We have talked about it,'' Gilbride said. "I told him to just keep playing. We aren't disappointed at all. He helps us in so many areas; I don't worry necessarily about the yardage per carry. I just look at the tone he is setting, not only with his running but also with everything he does.''

Jacobs has provided one of the great Giants feel-good stories since assuming a starting role in 2007. He had a wicked temper as a kid, quick to raise his fists, always emotional. Football helped give him direction and confidence. Jacobs transferred from Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College to Auburn, where he played with two future first-round picks, Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams.

So Jacobs transferred again, this time to Southern Illinois. He rushed for 922 yards and 19 touchdowns, averaging 6.6 yards a carry, in his season at Southern Illinois. The Giants took him in the fourth round of the 2005 draft.

He got himself a Super Bowl ring. He got himself a big contract. Now he must get himself an attitude adjustment.

Jacobs is a proud man. He wants to be great, for himself, for the team. Nobody should blame him for that. But it's time Jacobs redirects his anger entirely onto the field the way he did the past two seasons. It's a proven formula for Jacobs in a league where players must constantly prove themselves.

Kevin Gleason covers the Giants for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y.

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