EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It’s Paul Perkins' job to lose as the starting running back for the New York Giants this season. That became evident when coach Ben McAdoo uncharacteristically declared him the starter earlier this offseason.
How exactly Perkins will be used has been significantly more open for debate. The Giants still have Shane Vereen on the roster. When healthy, he’s been their passing-down option. They re-signed Orleans Darkwa and signed Shaun Draughn this offseason. They also drafted Wayne Gallman.
Still, Perkins appears to have the coaching staff sold based on what he did last season and this spring.
“Well, what he’s shown is … in our system you have to have three phases: You have to be able to run the ball. He was an effective runner last year,” running backs coach Craig Johnson said. “You have to be able to catch the ball. He did a good job in that. And you have to be able to block people, because they are going to try you out. He probably improved the most in that situation. Guys were going to test him out to see if they were going to get to the quarterback. He held up very good in protection and he’s continuing to do that.
“If you can do that, that allows you to be a guy that it’s possible to stay on the field all three downs.”
The Giants are of the belief that Perkins can be an every-down back. They used him as such late last year when Vereen was injured and he was in a 50-50 timeshare with Rashad Jennings.
Jennings was released earlier this offseason. He is currently a free agent.
Vereen may change the situation slightly this year. He was subbed in on most passing downs for the Giants the previous season, when he caught 61 passes.
But this year could be different. Perkins may just be viewed as the feature back the Giants have lacked in recent years.
“I really like what Paul Perkins has been doing so far,” Johnson said. “He ended last season playing like a guy that is ready to take over the job. There is nothing so far in the offseason to show he’s not going to be able to handle that role.
“But that is today. It’s a long way from today to the opening game.”
Ninety-five days, to be exact. A lot can happen in 95 days.
If something does change, it’s not going to be Perkins’ physical skills that will derail him from being the Giants’ primary back and a significant fantasy option this season.
“He really can cut sharp. He can put his foot into the ground,” Johnson said. “He can burst through the hole. It helps both in the run and pass protection. That really has helped his versatility.”
It’s undoubtedly Perkins’ job to lose. But Vereen, Darkwa, Gallman and Draughn will be waiting if something does go wrong over the next three months.
For Vereen, it's about staying on the field. He twice tore his triceps last season. The Giants do like Darkwa. He’s produced (3.8 yards per carry) when they have put him on the field. Their concern with him is health. He missed the final six games last season with an injured leg that never properly healed from the previous spring. Gallman has run and caught the ball well this spring. But he still needs some work in pass protection to earn a substantial role as a rookie.
After an offseason where they passed on most of the big names (and offered the minimum salary benefit to LeGarrette Blount), the Giants are betting big on Perkins. And now we see why -- they view him as a potential three-down back.