The New York Giants backfield suffered a devastating blow when Pro Bowl running back Saquon Barkley went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 2 of the season. The belief was that in-season addition Devonta Freeman would shoulder the majority of the workload in Barkley’s absence.
For an amount of time, this was the case, as the 2015 NFL rushing touchdowns leader started four of his five games with Big Blue in 2020, accumulating 38 touches over his final two full-games. However, an ankle injury sustained in Week 7 ended Freeman’s season and subsequently his tenure in East Rutherford.
With Freeman out of the picture, the team opted to hop aboard the Wayne Train, leaning on fourth-year pro Wayne Gallman to man lead-back duties.
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Wayne Gallman on His Way Out of New York?
The former Clemson Tiger responded with career-highs across the board. Yet, his breakout campaign may have subsequently priced him out of the Giants’ future plans, as The Athletic’s Dan Duggan recently highlighted:
The Giants surely would welcome back Gallman, who averaged 4.6 yards per carry when thrust into the feature back role after Barkley’s injury. But Gallman likely will explore other opportunities rather than signing up to sit behind Barkley again.
While Barkley’s expected return to full-strength will call upon an extensive workload, the Giants will undoubtedly need to address the running back position behind their superstar.
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James White to the Giants?
Currently projected to be $2 million-plus over the cap (per Spotrac) due to a reduced salary cap as part of lost revenue from the pandemic, it’s safe to say the Giants won’t have their pick of the litter come free agency. Yet, that’s not to say New York can’t find a valuable piece on the open-market for cheap.
Duggan recently zeroed in on New England Patriots veteran James White as an answer to fill potential voids left behind by both Gallman and Dion Lewis. Duggan penciled in the “pass-catching back” alongside fullback Eli Penny and a future Day 3 draft pick behind Barkley in an “early snapshot” of what Big Blue’s depth chart at running back could look like in 2021.
Depth chart: Day 3 pick, James White, Eli Penny
The Giants wasted an opportunity to find a young running back this season, giving 109 carries to Alfred Morris and Devonta Freeman at a position that constantly produces young, low-cost talent. The Giants need to add a young running back on Day 3 of the draft or in undrafted free agency this offseason. If they find their James Robinson, that back could be a replacement for Barkley if contract negotiations get sticky next offseason. White can take Dion Lewis’ spot as a cheap pass-catching back with Patriots ties.
White, a centerpiece of the Patriots’ short-passing game during the Tom Brady era, saw his production plummet in 2020, as did many New England skill players.
His 49 receptions were the lowest he’s recorded since 2015, his second season in the NFL. While not a typical threat in the run game, the former Wisconsin Badger also endured a dip in usage in this facet as well. His 35 carries and 291 rushing yards both rank as the third-lowest output in his seven-year NFL career.
With that said, White had averaged nearly 80 receptions per year over the two seasons prior, totaling 18 touchdowns over that span. He also owns the NFL record for most receptions in a Super Bowl, snagging 14 catches in New England’s Super Bowl LI victory over the Atlanta Falcons. A victory, might we add, that Giants head coach Joe Judge was a part of, serving as the Patriots’ special teams coordinator at the time.
The Giants could certainly find younger options to fill out their depth chart, as White will turn 29-years-old in February. However, his connection to Judge, skillset as an outlet receiver and championship prowess may be too much for New York to pass up, especially at his likely compact price tag.
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