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2015 New York Giants Positional Breakdown: Running Backs & Fullbacks

Throughout the next several weeks, I’ll be breaking down the Giants’ roster, position by position. We’ll take a look at what each player brings to the table, their chances of making the roster and, if applicable, their roles on the 2015 team. Next, we’ll take a look at the running backs and fullbacks.

Rashad Jennings

Roster odds: 100%

The Giants may have shored up their running back depth chart by adding Shane Vereen this offseason, but it still appears that Jennings is the starter. Jennings’ first season with the Giants had its ups and downs, but was still widely viewed as a disappointment. He ran for 639 yards on 167 carries (3.8 YPC), reaching the end zone four times in just 11 games (9 starts).

When he was healthy, Jennings showed the talent that landed him a four-year, $10 million contract last offseason. For example, he ran circles around the Houston Texans in Week 3 of last season, tallying 176 yards on 34 carries (5.18 YPC) and a touchdown. But Jennings battled injuries throughout the season and could never find his groove.

Giants running back Rashad Jennings (Getty Images).

Giants running back Rashad Jennings (Getty Images).

This season, expect to see Jennings hold onto the starting job as long as he’s healthy. Vereen and second-year pro Andre Williams could cut into his carries, but this is Jennings’ job to lose. When he is playing his best, he provides a huge boost to the Giants offense. It’s just a matter of actually playing his best.

Shane Vereen

Roster odds: 100%

Vereen, the former Patriot, joined the Giants on a 3-year, $12.35 million contract back in March. Despite Vereen’s contract being more valuable than Jennings’, Vereen seems best suited as the Giants’ third-down back. The 26-year old is not a workhorse back, as he has never carried the ball more than 96 times in one season in the pros.

However, Vereen excels at catching the ball in the backfield, as he racked up 52 catches last year for New England. He actually had more receiving yards (447) than rushing yards (391) in 2013. His ability to catch the ball will be refreshing for the Giants; Last year’s backup running back, Andre Williams, has hands of stone when it comes to catching a ball.

Giants running back Shane Vereen during his time with the Patriots (USA Today).

Giants running back Shane Vereen during his time with the Patriots (USA Today).

Vereen comes with minor injury concerns, as well, as he played in just eight games in 2013, suffering from a wrist injury. However, he was pretty reliable last year, albeit with a back-up workload. Vereen should see the field often for the Giants, and could be a weapon out of the backfield. He would also likely take over as the starter in the event Jennings goes down.

Henry Hynoski

Roster odds: 100%

Hynoski is locked in as the lead blocker, and rightfully so. He was Pro Football Focus’ highest-rated free agent fullback, and re-signed with the Giants on a two-year, $2 million deal. 2015 will be “the Hynoceros’” fifth season with New York, and his fourth as the full-time starter. He is an elite blocker, but doesn’t offer a ton offensively, as he had just seven carries for 13 yards last year.

Andre Williams

Roster odds: 95%

A lot of excitement surrounded Williams when he was drafted in the fourth round of last year’s draft, especially after his strong collegiate career at Boston College. Williams dominated his opponents during his final season at BC, averaging 6.1 YPC on his way to leading the nation in rushing and scoring 18 touchdowns. His 2,177 yards ranked fifth all-time in single-season rushing records. To top it all off, he was a Heisman finalist.

His rookie season with the Giants, however, was not as prolific. In 16 games, Williams managed just 721 yards on 217 carries (3.3 YPC). The ability to break away and make big plays we saw at Boston College simply didn’t translate to the NFL last year. He has the makings of a straight, downhill runner in the pros, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Giants running back Andre Williams (Getty Images).

Giants running back Andre Williams (Getty Images).

Williams can prove his value to the Giants by showing his power and keeping his feet moving. I just think his role is up in the air right now. Most of the carries are going to go to Jennings and Vereen, leaving Williams with the scraps. His role could increase if there is an injury to Jennings and/or Vereen (a distinct possibility), but for now he’s sort of in limbo.

I didn’t put his roster odds at 100% simply because, as of right now, I don’t see the Giants carrying more than three running backs. If a dark horse running back is going to win a spot on the roster, it would likely be at Williams’ expense. Still, barring a miserable preseason, Williams should have no trouble keeping his spot.

Akeem Hunt

Roster odds: 15%

If there’s a dark horse running back that has a chance to make the 53-man, it’s probably Hunt. Hunt had a pretty respectable career at Purdue, and last year ran for 949 yards on 173 carries (5.5 YPC) and six touchdowns. He has great speed (he ran a 4.40 at Purdue’s Pro Day) and reliable hands (48 receptions last year), and also has experience returning kicks.

Giants running back Akeem Hunt while he was at Purdue (AP).

Giants running back Akeem Hunt while he was at Purdue (AP).

Like I said before, I expect the Giants to go with just three running backs out of camp, but if they do go with four, I expect Hunt to make it, as long as he has a good camp and preseason. New York probably envisions him as a practice squad guy, but a strong summer could make it less likely that he would clear waivers, forcing the Giants’ hand to keep him on the roster.

Orleans Darkwa

Roster odds: 5%

Darkwa joined the Giants in the middle of last season, though he didn’t do a whole lot. In seven games, he carried the rock just five times for 21 yards and a touchdown. The Tulane product had a strong preseason last year for the Dolphins, and probably needs another one to make the Giants again. One thing he has going for him is experience in Ben McAdoo’s offense, but for now he should still be considered a longshot.

Kenneth Harper

Roster odds: 0%

Harper, an undrafted free agent out of Temple, was signed after the Giants’ rookie minicamp. He didn’t amount massive stats during his senior season, gaining 307 yards on 87 carries (3.5 YPC), but the Giants liked his combination of speed and power during minicamp.

He’s going to have a tough time cracking the roster, as he would have to beat out Hunt and Darkwa, and maybe even Williams. Again, if the Giants only carry three running backs, which I currently expect, I can’t see him making the team. But things could change if he has a strong camp and the Giants decide to carry four runners.

Nikita Whitlock

Roster odds: 0%

Whitlock, a second-year pro, is Henry Hynoski’s backup. He spent time on the Bengals’ and Cowboys’ rosters last year, but never appeared in a game. He’s simply a warm body, and only has a chance at making the roster if Hynoski goes down with an injury.

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