RBBC for the Giants?
On Wednesday, ESPN NFL Nation New York Giants reporter Dan Graziano stopped by the Pro Football Focus show hosted by Mike Clay on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio (10 a.m. ET weekdays – Sirius 210 & XM 87). Garziano talked about Victor Cruz’s status, the Giants’ backfield, and what to expect from Larry Donnell from a fantasy football standpoint. You can find Grazziano on Twitter @DanGrazianoESPN.
RBBC In New York?
After adding Shane Vereen to the mix this offseason, the Giants’ backfield distribution is difficult to predict going forward. Preseason snap counts have only made things more interesting. Both Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams have seen significant action with the first team offense. Veren has seen almost every passing down snap, and he has even seen some early down action when the Giants move to no huddle. Graziano has seen the backfield split live in action during every training camp practice open to the media. He sheds some light on the situation.
“They have rotated backs throughout the preseason games. After the second preseason game, it looked like it was Williams. After the third preseason game, it looked like Jennings. You might see Jennings with the first two series and Williams with the third. They are concerned with Jennings health wise. They tried to have Jennings be the every down back last year and he got hurt. Then you factor in Shane Vereen who will be the third down back and he’ll be in there. For me, the Giants’ backfield is a stay away situation.”
What about Vereen though? Can he get into 11-13 carry a game range in addition to the action he sees in the passing game?
“There’s a chance of that but it’s tied to health of the other guys and the Giants’ potential pass protection issues. They have questions at both tackle spots. Vereen will get into the mix more they way you might see a blocking tight end if the Giants struggle in pass protection. They think he can run the ball. There might be game situations where Vereen gets a lot of snaps, because the priority is always to get the personnel on the field that can best protect the quarterback.”
Although Graziano is not bullish on Vereen’s chances at emerging out of this backfield, projected game script leads me to believe that he can. As Graziano mentioned, Vereen excels in pass protection, and there is a good chance the Giants will struggle in that department early on in 2015. While rookie left tackle Ereck Flowers has been a solid run blocker this preseason, he has struggled as a pass blocker. At right tackle, the Giants are hoping that journeyman Marshall Newhouse can hold up.
In addition to their potential protection woes, the Giants have a lot to worry about on the defensive end. The Giants have already lost several defensive backs to season-ending injuries. The Giants were already suspect from a talent standpoint at safety and a depth standpoint at cornerback before the injuries struck. The game flow could dictate a heavy dosage of the Giants’ hurry-up offense, and in turn, a heavy dosage of Vereen.
Donnell Can Be Your Late-Round Flier At TE
“The threat is Coughlin won’t put him on the field if his blocking doens’t improve. I think that’s an empty threat. They’d like to see him develop better as an inline blocker and they have Daniel Fells. But they have lined Donnell in the backfield and we’ve seen him lined up out wide. The fact that he’s out there indicates how they view him. I think he’s a bargain in your fantasy draft. He’s a red zone target and someone Eli Manning can throw it up to and he’ll come down with the ball. If you’re looking for a late-round flier at tight end, you could do a lot worse.”
Donnell honed in on his blocking this offseason, but through 22 run blocking snaps this preseason, he has once again earned a negative grade after finishing one of the worst run blockers in the NFL in 2014, per PFF’s grades. It’s not difficult to make noise at the tight end position, and our projections are bullish on Donnell. As the Giants’ second and sometimes first option in the red zone, he can crack into the TE1 range via his production in the red zone alone.
An Ideal Late-Round WR Flier?
There has been speculation that Rueben Randle could open the season and stick as the Giants’ No. 2 wide receiver on the depth chart ahead of Victor Cruz. Graziano offer his take on this speculation.
“I don’t think it’s that cut and dry,” Graziano said. “Randle is strictly on the outside, and Victor Cruz they prefer to use in the slot. In the past they have used Cruz on the outside, but there have been issues where he struggled against physical coverage and they don’t want to expose him to injury. Given the significance of Cruz’s injury, it wouldn’t surprise me if two wide receiver sets have Randle and Beckham, at least to start the season. It’s important to view Cruz as a guy they’re not 100 percent sure of yet.”
Randle is an intriguing deep flier and someone you can draft at the back end of most fantasy drafts. He finished with career highs in catches and yards, with 71 and 938 respectively. Over the final two games of the 2014 season, Randle racked up 290 receiving yards and a touchdown on 12 catches. Keep in mind that Randle has also been dealing with an injury this offseason. Tendinitis in his knee has held him out of some presesaon action and he has made almost no impact during the preseason snaps he has played.
Cruz’s Week 1 Status In Doubt
The closest Cruz got to a live game situation was the one joint practice he participated in with the Bengals early in training camp. Cruz has been unable to practice in recent weeks with a calf injury. Cruz is still confident he can suit up for Week 1, but Graziano seems a lot less confident.
“I think it’s (Cruz’s Week 1 status) very much in doubt at this point. He hasn’t been on the practice field in two weeks and he’s not going to play in the fourth preseason game. The Giants don’t know how his knee is going to react in live game action. They’ve seen him run and his straight-line speed is not an issue. The issue is live game action and explosive movements that can’t be simulated in a non contact practice. At this point, it’s a strong likelihood that he will have to miss Week 1.”
Cruz is being drafted in the mid-to-late rounds of fantasy drafts based on his name and past reputation. Until he shows his trademark explosion in and out of breaks, it is impossible to feel confident that he can become the player he once was.
What Ever Happened To Corey Washington?
Remember the Giants wide receiver who tore up the 2014 preseason with 155 yards and four touchdowns on just 10 receptions? After struggling to see live game action in 2015, Corey Washington’s roster spot is far from guaranteed heading into final cuts.
“It’s going to be tough for Washington. They have the three wide receiver starters, they have Dwayne Harris who will make the team and a rookie Geremy Davis who will make the team because Jerry Reese doesn’t cut draft picks. That’s five receivers. The rest are battling for one or maybe two spots and the Giants signed James Jones. He will have to show something on special teams to get on the field.”
Washington could provide the Giants with a dynamic option in the red zone, but their depth at wide receiver forces him to also be a proficient special teams player. There are major question marks for Washington in that area of his game.
Dan Schneier is a staff writer at PFF Fantasy and he covers the NFC East beat for FOX Sports. You can find him on Twitter @DanSchneierNFL. You can also add him to your network on Google+ to find all of his past material.