It was easy to locate weak spots in the New York Giants' offense this season. They didn’t score enough points (19.4 ppg) and rarely moved the ball consistently. It ultimately contributed to their demise when they failed to get into the end zone several times early in their wild-card loss to the Green Bay Packers. Eventually, it was going to be their downfall.
The Giants scored 111 fewer points this past season than they did in 2015. It can be attributed to a multitude of reasons, beginning with the play of quarterback Eli Manning. He struggled to get comfortable for most of the season and didn’t have great protection or a reliable running game for support. He also didn’t receive enough help from his running backs, and not just as rushers.
The Giants’ receiving production out of the backfield dipped greatly in 2016, in part because of the absence of Shane Vereen. The versatile back twice tore his triceps muscle and played in just five games, only three of which he finished.
Bobby Rainey was supposed to be the Giants' insurance in that role. That is why he was on the roster. But he wasn’t a sufficient replacement in that passing-down role. The Giants tried Rainey there for several weeks before realizing he wasn’t the solution and changing course. Eventually, they simply rotated Rashad Jennings and Paul Perkins on a permanent (run and pass down) basis.
It hurt in the passing game more than anticipated, with neither known for their route-running or pass-catching ability. Jennings and Perkins combined for 50 receptions for just 362 yards and one touchdown this season.
Vereen alone had 59 receptions for 494 yards and four touchdowns the previous year. That’s 8.4 yards per reception and 24 points that he produced in 2015.
“He's a good playmaker,” coach Ben McAdoo said during the season. “The more of those you have on the field at the same time, the better off you'll be.”
The Giants didn't have enough this past season. Jennings and Perkins averaged 7.24 yards per reception and produced just six points in the passing game despite significant roles.
With teams playing two deep safeties a majority of the time against the Giants in order to contain star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., there was tremendous opportunity for the running backs to prosper in the passing game, matched against linebackers. That’s a one-on-one battle they needed to win, but too often didn't.
This year’s two Super Bowl contestants do it regularly. The Patriots use running back James White and the Falcons use a combination of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman to exploit those matchups. Patriots running backs caught five touchdown passes this season; Falcons backs caught six.
It’s something the Giants need to fix, with either the return of Vereen or some other option. This is a draft loaded with running back options, many of which catch the ball well out of the backfield. The Giants need more versatility and explosiveness at the position. They were the only team in the NFL without a 30-yard run. Jennings had the team’s longest run of 25 yards.
Any way you look at it, the Giants did not get enough out of their backfield this past season. Look for them to upgrade (either through free agency or the draft) this offseason.