|Jeremy Shockey and the Giants O will benefit from a big year by Brandon Jacobs. (US Presswire)|
He won't produce 2,127 yards in offense. He won outrun defenses. And he won't be as dangerous catching the football as he is carrying it.
But that's not the issue. Having Brandon Jacobs and his considerable size, power and talent in the lineup for 16 games is.
"What we count on," said coach Tom Coughlin, "is that he's going to wear some people down and (that) in the fourth quarter he's going to be a difference maker."
Notice Coughlin's choice of words. No one, including Coughlin, knows what to expect of Jacobs. The guy can look more like a wrecking ball than a running back, and I have videotape of last weekend's win over Baltimore to prove it.
In that game, Jacobs carried what seemed like the entire Ravens defense with him on a blast up the middle. The last time I checked he still was on his feet.
"I think he knocked off three helmets," said Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka. "The thing is, he can do that play in and play out."
|One man vs. One fan|
kevinpops: "This is the year we find out if Eli was really worth all the fuss and if Plax and Shockey can help Eli get to the next level."
Terrific. Only, for the sake of the Giants, he better not try.
Because it's not Jacobs' abilities as a running back that are in question; it's his durability. Nobody -- including people within the Giants organization -- can say with certainty that Jacobs should hold up an entire season as Barber's successor.
And here's why: He's 6-feet-4, 264 pounds and runs in an upright position. That combination makes him an inviting target for the next defender, especially with Jacobs getting most of his work where traffic is the thickest -- between the tackles.
But there's something else to consider: Jacobs hasn't been the lead back since ... well, junior college, which means he hasn't had to make the carries or absorb the hits that Barber did.
"I'm not worried about that at all," he said. "I have my ways of taking care of myself, of doing what I can to stay healthy and take some hits off myself. That's not a problem at all."
Maybe not now, but Jacobs didn't carry more than six times in either of the first two preseason games. If all goes according to plan, the Giants envision him touching the ball 20-25 times a start, a marked departure from Jacobs' first two pro seasons when he averaged 4.3 carries a game and never had more than 11 rushing attempts in any contest.
Of course, Jacobs served a different role then. He was Barber's backup and the team's short-yardage and goal-line threat, sometimes appearing for no more than a handful of plays.
|Out of Nowhere Man|
|DE Justin Tuck|
|With Michael Strahan AWOL this summer, Tuck, entering his third season, has been gaining invaluable playing time -- and making the most of it. Tuck is a quick, powerful pass rusher who produced one sack in his first two pro seasons. Some of that has to do with a foot injury that sidelined him part of last season; some has to do with Strahan and Osi Umenyiora playing ahead of him as the starting defensive ends. But Tuck demonstrated in training camp he can start in this defense if Strahan doesn't return. And if he does? Tuck should still make a contribution off the bench.|
| '06 Rewind: RB Brandon Jacobs |
Miles from nowhere: Nice call, Clark. Jacobs' role in the offense was expanded and the bruising back responded with nine touchdowns, rushing for 423 yards on 96 carries. With Tiki Barber's retirement, Jacobs takes over as the No. 1 tailback and should be getting the ball 20-25 times a game.
|Who is your Out of Nowhere Man?|
"It's a lot different coming in third-and-1 or at the goal line," said linebacker Antonio Pierce, "than it is now when you're saying he's got to carry the load for us, with 20 carries a game for 16 games. Because his body can take a pounding."
Precisely the point. If this camp is about anything, it's about trying to compel Jacobs to limit the damage to his body. Coaches work with him on avoiding big hits and on making him understand his value to the league's seventh-ranked rushing offense.
Jacobs said he understands, but I have that videotape from Baltimore that makes me wonder.
"I don't like to go down," he said, "so guys get free shots at me. I have to learn to go down faster if I can't get more yards. It makes no sense to fight eight people to get one or two more yards. You just have to get down. After playing the last two years it's not hard to dodge anyone because I can."
Now that I want to see. Barber dodged tacklers; Jacobs uses them as speed bumps. I understand he can't change the way he runs. As he said, "I'm 6-feet-4, for crying out loud. I can't get lower than a 5-10 person, but I can get low enough to bull through."
Good. Because he should.
I remember watching Ricky Watters knife through defenses and marveling at his ability to stay healthy. Then I studied the guy and noticed how smart he played, saving himself by ducking at just the right time to avoid unnecessary hits.
I wonder if Jacobs can do that. No, I wonder how he can do it.
"First of all," he said, "you start off by not going right down the middle of somebody. You pick a side. A soft side and run to it.
|RB Brandon Jacobs|
| Dave Richard's take: |
Jacobs is going from touchdown vulture to Tiki Barber's replacement in The Big Apple, and all indications are that the Giants aren't too concerned. The plan in place is to have Jacobs be the primary ball carrier with Reuben Droughns helping him out. Jacobs has worked this offseason to improve his technique and receiving skills in hopes of being an exclusive back. Jacobs won't put up Barber-like numbers, but he should do well enough to serve as a No. 2 Fantasy back this season.
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"Make people miss and avoid contact. Don't take hits when you don't need to be hit. It's nothing serious. Just things that you see. You watch guys like LaDainian Tomlinson, and they avoid hits every week just by making people miss and avoiding unnecessary contact."
But Tomlinson is not 6-4 and is not built like a defensive end. Neither, for that matter, was Barber. So this I have to see.
"I'm not worried about his durability," said Pierce. "He feels he has a lot to prove. He has some big shoes to fill. Regardless of what you want to say about Tiki, he put up some amazing numbers. He carried our offense.
"Now Brandon is looked on to duplicate it. Only he's not going to duplicate those numbers as far as receptions and yards. That's just a fact. But he has to be 'the guy.'
"When we need a play or have to run the ball or run the clock out, he must be the guy who carries the load for us. Kind of like what Tiki did. At the same time, he does have Eli (Manning) and (Jeremy) Shockey so he doesn't have to do too much."
Manning and Shockey have their own issues. With Jacobs, this is all about making it through a season. This isn't about being the next Tiki Barber; this is about demonstrating that he can absorb the inevitable blows and give the Giants what they need, which is someone to count on.
That takes me back to Tiki. For all that he did for the Giants, his greatest contribution might have been his durability. The guy was always there, not missing a game over his final five seasons. And that, folks, is where Jacobs must try to replicate his predecessor.
"This is the opportunity I've been waiting for since I was seven or eight years old," said Jacobs, "and I'm going to take advantage of I it."
Perfect. But he better be smart about it.