Brandon Jacobs Still Worthy of Giants’ Starting Running Back Role

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Brandon Jacobs is not happy backing up Ahmad Bradshaw — and for good reason. While Jacobs has handled losing his starting job immaturely, he still is the best pick to be the Giants’ featured back.

In 2007 and 2008, Jacobs shared carries with Derrick Ward, and even though Ward played well (rushing for more yards than Jacobs in 2008), Jacobs remained the featured back. That’s because Jacobs’ unique combination of size, speed and agility wears down defenses, making it easier for Ward to be the change-of-pace back who shifts through holes and racks up yards.

Ward’s performance in 2008 landed him the starting gig in Tampa Bay last season, where he severely underperformed, rushing for a grand total of 409 yards. Granted, the Buccaneers’ offense struggled in general, but the fact that Ward couldn’t beat out Cadillac Williams and ended being cut shows that Ward is not the player he seemed to be on the Giants.

In 2009, Bradshaw filled Ward’s role as the second back behind Jacobs, and Bradshaw stepped up nicely, running for 778 yards, averaging  4.8 yards per carry and scoring seven times. In comparison, Jacobs trudged his way to 835 yards on 3.7 yards per carry and scored five rushing touchdowns. Based on those stats, it seems pretty clear that Bradshaw is the better runner and deserves the starting role.

However, a closer look behind those numbers reveals a greater truth.

During the 2009 season, Jacobs and Bradshaw played in 14 games together. In Jacobs’ seven games with the most carries (for himself, not compared to Bradshaw), Bradshaw averaged 5.8 yards per carry. In the seven games where Jacobs carried the least, Bradshaw’s average dropped to 4.3 yards per carry. And while those bottom seven games came against tougher opponents, Jacobs had his highest average yards per carry against San Diego and Arizona, two of Bradshaw’s worst games. This means the stats are not a result of feasting on weaker opponents. Rather, an increase in Jacobs carries opens up the ground game for Bradshaw. And all of this came during a down year for Jacobs.

As a small, shifty back, Bradshaw can take advantage of the tired defenses that Jacobs creates, but if Jacobs isn’t starting this year and getting the bulk of the work, Bradshaw could be in for a rude awakening. Plus, he’s far less experienced than Jacobs, only starting one game in his career.

If Bradshaw becomes the featured back, defensive coordinators can scheme all week against him, instead of coming as a bit of a surprise like last year. Jacobs still has some life in him, and by making him the starter, Bradshaw can be even more effective.

The two make a great combo, a 2.0 version of Thunder and Lighting with Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne. And just as Dayne rode on the coattails of Barber, Bradshaw and the Giants need Jacobs to be the starter.

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