The New York Giants lost their season opener on Sunday night in perhaps the sloppiest NFL performance of Week One. Against the Dallas Cowboys, New York committed six turnovers en route to a 36-31 loss.
Eli Manning hurt the Giants with three interceptions, but did manage to complete over 64 percent of his passes for 450 yards and four touchdowns. New York’s biggest issue appeared to be with their rushing attack. David Wilson was unproductive on just 2.7 yards per carry, and also fumbled twice. Back-up running back Da’Rel Scott didn't fare much better, bobbling a ball that led to an interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, which ended the Giants chances of making a comeback.
Entering the 2013 NFL season, few teams had more question marks at running back than New York. They are the first team since the 2001 Cleveland Browns to begin a season without a player who has at least 400 career rushing yards. Ahmad Bradshaw signed with the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent, making second-year player David Wilson the starter. However, his inability to hold onto the ball could put his job in jeopardy.
In 2012, Wilson was successful when given a chance, averaging 5.0 yards per carry on 71 attempts. He won’t get that many carries, though, if he continues to fumble.
“They’re not going to play unless they can hang onto the ball,” head coach Tom Coughlin said of New York’s running backs. “It’s demoralizing to the whole team.”
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The backfield also struggled with pass protection, which contributed to Manning’s three sacks. The Giants began the preseason with little experience at the position and lost some depth when backup Andre Brown was placed on injured reserve after suffering a broken leg. Now, New York may be forced to look outside the organization for help.
Since a week of games has already been played, the Giants can offer a player a contract with no guaranteed money. There are several veteran free-agent running backs available that New York can consider bringing in.
Michael Turner might be the best free agent running back on the market. The 31-year-old remains unsigned after having spent five years as a starter for the Atlanta Falcons. He saw his playing time decrease last season, as he registered 800 yards on 3.6 yards per carry. In three of the previous four years, though, Turner rushed for over 1,300 yards.
After nine years in the league, Turner’s declining stats may indicate that he shouldn’t be an every-down back anymore. However, he could split time with Wilson, and give New York the veteran presence they need.
Willis McGahee is another option for the Giants. He had a resurgence with the Denver Broncos in 2011 and was on pace to have another strong year in 2012 before he suffered a season-ending injury. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, New York will work out the veteran on Tuesday. McGahee was released in June, but claimed he was fully recovered from his knee injury.
Brandon Jacobs, who spent seven seasons with the Giants, is also expected to workout for the Giants this week. Jacobs, 31, won two championships with the club, but left for the San Francisco 49ers last offseason. He was released by the team in December after playing just two games.