New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs may have ran for 835 yards last season, but it was the quality of those yards that had skeptics wondering aloud whether or not he was washed up.
The 835 yards were the fewest for Jacobs since he became a featured running back in a populated backfield, but not only that, his averages were way down. The bruising back had averaged 4.98 yards per carry in the previous two seasons, but last year he was down to 3.7.
The struggles of Jacobs hurt a Giants offense that hung their hat on a dominating rushing attack. While the loss of Derrick Ward may have hurt the rushing attack as well, an unproductive Jacobs certainly didn't help.
Without Jacobs picking up big yardage in early-down situations, the Giants were forced to try and stretch the field with a passing offense that was missing Plaxico Burress while rushing the development of promising, albeit young wide receivers.
Add in a defense that would disappear at times, it was a recipe for disaster.
But, it is a new year, and early reports indicate that a new Jacobs is in town. Apparently, Jacobs has come to camp in better shape and has devoted himself to bouncing back from last year's disappointing season.
"I had fat last year, over 9 percent," Jacobs told the Star-Ledger. "This year, I?m under six."
"Power is instilled in me," he added. "I?m born strong, I don?t think I have to do much to keep strong. I just have to do a lot of work to get my speed up and work on my core flexibility, my hip flexibility."
Jacobs worked out like a maniac this offseason while also having some repair done to an injured knee. His physical health alone should make him a better player and a more dangerous option this season, but that's not the only evidence that he's due for bounce back year.
Fullback Madison Hedgecock, who played injured last season with a torn labrum, is healthy again. Hedgecock should be able to pave the way as a lead-blocker for Jacobs and fellow running back Ahmad Bradshaw, along with lessening the burden in the red zone.
Just as important, Eli Manning and his young wide receivers will have one more year under their belts together. If Hakeem Nicks is healthy and Mario Manningham continues to improve, the Giants will be able to spread the field. By doing that, the G-Men will have the opportunity to take less pressure of their running game than they have in the past.
The bottom line is Jacobs will likely be better this season. And if Jacobs is better, the Giants will be better. And after last year's disappointing run, the Giants will need to get back to their once-dominant running game — with Jacobs in the fold — in order to establish themselves at the top of the NFC East again.