Camp Battles: Bradshaw, Wilson duel to boost Giants' run game
The Giants rushed for 3.5 yards per carry as a team last season, worst in the NFL
Ahmad Bradshaw has recovered from foot injury that hampered him in 2011
David Wilson averaged 5.7 yards per carry in three years at Virginia Tech
It's rare for a team to claim the Vince Lombardi trophy without a stellar rushing attack; the Giants won the title last year with the league's worst ground game. How bad, you ask? New York tallied 1,000 fewer rushing yards than both Denver and Houston, and posted a league low for yards per carry (3.5). They were one of six teams held without a single carry of 40 or more yards.
The combination of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw -- once one of the most feared duos in the NFC -- failed to move the ball week after week. The two combined for three games of 75 or more yards, and Bradshaw led the club with 659 yards -- one yard behind QB Tim Tebow on the league leaderboard.
Recognizing the need to bolster its backfield, New York cut ties with Jacobs and used the final draft pick in Round 1 to select Virginia Tech's David Wilson, whose 1,709 yards last season helped earn the Hokies a BCS berth in the Sugar Bowl.
Why Bradshaw is the best choice: Experience. He has been a part of two title-winning teams and is just one year removed from a 1,200-yard season. Bradshaw knows the offense and has the confidence of his teammates. He also has the confidence of management. GM Jerry Reese told reporters this spring: "We've got [Bradshaw] and he's going to be the lead dog for us ..." Plus, Bradshaw catches a fair number of balls -- an average of 2.3 per start over the past three seasons. Perhaps most important, all indications are that he has fully recovered from the foot injury that slowed him down last season (Bradshaw received a bone marrow injection in March).
Why it's Wilson: Did I mention the Giants ranked dead last in rushing last year? Oh well, another reminder won't hurt. With Eli Manning, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, this team has the makings of an unstoppable offense if it can get more oomph out of the ground attack. Only Bradshaw and Jacobs weren't able to do their part in 2011. Their hard-fought-yards style didn't provide enough big gainers (New York had just four carries of 20-plus yards all last season). Wilson is a firecracker waiting to be lit. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry in three years at Virginia Tech. Last year he logged a carry of 30 or more yards in nine of 14 contests. He was one of only a few prospects to post a 40 time under 4.5 at the Combine and registered the high mark at his position in the vertical and broad jump categories. Said Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride recently: "In this guy you've got the kind of explosion that I'm not sure how many guys in the league have."
Don't forget about: D.J. Ware
Most believe the 27-year-old Ware will enter camp as the team's No. 2 back behind Bradshaw. He contributed in the passing game last year in losses to San Francisco (five catches) and New Orleans (eight), and broke runs of 17 and 15 yards in the team's final two regular season games.
Who fantasy owners should pull for: Wilson
Fantasy owners have already sampled Bradshaw; Wilson offers something fresh. And knowing Tom Coughlin has little patience for poor play, Wilson will see the field the instant Bradshaw slips.
Of all the first-year backs, Wilson has the best surroundings to make an instant fantasy impact. He could be the smash-hit rookie of 2012.