<
>

New York Giants' running game takes another hit

SEATTLE -- The New York Giants' already struggling running game got even thinner in Sunday's loss to the Seattle Seahawks, as running back Peyton Hillis left the game early with a concussion and running back Michael Cox left it late with a fracture in his lower left leg.

By the end of the game, rookie Andre Williams was the only healthy halfback the Giants had. It's possible they get starter Rashad Jennings, who's missed the last four games with a knee sprain, back for next week's game against the San Francisco 49ers. But even if Jennings is able to come back, it's likely the Giants have to add someone from outside the organization this week. They have no running back on their practice squad.

The Giants averaged 121 rushing yards per game during their first five games of the season and 157 during their three-game winning streak. But in the four games Jennings has missed, they're averaging 83.3 rushing yards per game. Williams has struggled to time his runs up with his blocking, the offensive line has struggled and the offense as a whole has suffered due to an inability to operate through the run.

It's obviously unclear how much time Hillis will have to miss, as he'll have to go through the league's concussion protocol before returning to the field. But Cox is surely out for the rest of the season. The Giants had been using Hillis on third downs, because they don't fully trust Williams yet in passing situations, and they were trying to get Cox more opportunities in Sunday's game due to Williams' overall struggles.

Assuming Jennings can return at full strength, he'll resume his role as the Giants' "bell cow" back, assigned the task of picking up yards on the ground on first and second downs and also catching it out of the backfield or picking up blitzes on third down. But Jennings still isn't certain to return this week, and even if he does he's not certain to be at full strength. So the Giants could find themselves juggling running backs as they were this time last season, which is not a helpful situation for them.