The 2011-12 Super Bowl winning New York Giants yet again face a controversial offseason.
The Giants must fill some big holes left behind by the departures of unrestricted free agents such as Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham to the San Francisco 49ers. Both players were key contributors to the offensive success that led New York to a Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots.
The loss of Manningham can be easily combated with the talent of outstanding wide receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.
But the absence of Jacobs leaves the Giants with alarming questions at the running back position.
New York ranked dead last in rushing yards during the 2011-12 season with a meager 89.2 yards per game. Much of the team's running woes can be blamed on injury, as Jacobs missed two games and Ahmad Bradshaw was sidelined four games.
The departure of Jacobs now forces the Giant's running game to lean on the injury-prone Ahmad Bradshaw and their unproven first round draft pick, David Wilson. Other than Bradshaw, the six other running backs on the roster have a combined total of only 347 career rushing yards.
New York tried to address the problem by selecting Virginia Tech running back David Wilson in April's NFL Draft. Wilson was a very productive back during his collegiate career, earning the 2011 ACC Offensive Player of the Year award. He impressed scouts during the NFL combine in February by ranking first in vertical jump, broad jump, and the shuttle run, among all running backs.
Wilson's presence as a speedy, athletic running back will definitely provide the Giants with fresh legs and much needed depth, but they still lack a veteran presence on the ground. New York needs to delve into the free agent market and sign a seasoned running back to mentor the younger players, while most importantly providing Bradshaw with a breather.
The most fitting running backs still available on the free agency market are Cedric Benson and Ryan Grant.
In each of the past three seasons, Benson has rushed for more than 1000 yards for the Cincinnati Bengals, while only missing three games. Splitting time with Bradshaw, Benson, and Wilson could create a similar running style to that of Super Bowl XLII, where a three-headed monster ground attack featured the contrasting, yet complementing running styles of Jacobs, Bradshaw, and Derrick Ward.
The other fitting veteran free agent, Ryan Grant, has come off of two unproductive seasons with the Green Bay Packers. Grant missed the entire 2010-11 season due to a major ankle injury, and was still hampered by it last season. If Grant's ankle heals properly, he can make a major comeback and provide New York with important carries.
The New York Giants start their quest to repeat as defending Super Bowl champions with their first preseason game August 18 against the New York Jets. Fixing the running back situation is imperative to their attempt at a repeat -- let alone surviving the NFC East.