While Saquon Barkley’s future in East Rutherford remains a question, that hasn’t stopped the New York Giants from building out the current depth chart around him. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the team signed free-agent running back Matt Breida to a contract on March 21.
The move is less one that potentially spells the end of Barkley’s tenure with the Giants and more a replacement to the recently released Devontae Booker, who was deemed a cap casualty on March 3. Breida, 27, has served the majority of his five-year NFL career as a change of pace back. The lone time he was pushed into every-down duty for an extended period of time came back in 2018 as a member of the San Francisco 49ers. In 14 games (13 starts) with the Niners that season, Breida capitalized on his added workload, pacing the team in rushing with 814 yards and three touchdowns on 153 carries.
The following year he was usurped as San Fran’s lead-back in a crowded backfield headlined by Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman. Regardless, the speedy Georgia Southern product still made his presence felt. A true homerun threat, with 4.38-speed (per GSEagles.com), Breida scampered for an 83-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play from scrimmage for the 49ers in a Week 5 bout with the Cleveland Browns. The run marked the fourth-longest rushing play in the NFL that season. Since that year, there have only been three rushing players across the NFL that have equated to 83-yards or more.
Ties to New Regime
Of course, it wouldn’t be a recent Giants signing without the player having some past ties to Orchard Park. Breida is no different. The Florida native spent the 2021 season as a member of the Buffalo Bills under the tutelage of current Giants head coach Brian Daboll, then-Bills offensive coordinator. Breida appeared in nine games during his lone campaign with the organization, totaling 197 yards from scrimmage while splitting time with starter Devin Singletary and former third-round pick Zack Moss.
Breida enjoyed a solid three-game stretch from Week 9-11 where the veteran back totaled three touchdowns on 23 touches, looking like he might be asserting himself as the top player in Buffalo’s backfield. However, he quickly reverted back to a reserve role down the stretch, touching the football only six times over the next three weeks.
The deal for Breida marks the eighth former Bills player that new GM Joe Schoen has added to the Giants’ roster this offseason. Schoen served as the assistant general manager in Buffalo from 2017 through 2021.
The 5-foot-10-inch, 195-pound Breida, who also spent one season in Miami, has amassed 2,281 rushing yards on 466 attempts over his 64 career games (19 starts). While not necessarily a workhorse back, Breida has established himself as one of the league’s more efficient rushers, owning a career 4.9 yards per carry average. For reference, Jamaal Charles is the NFL’s all-time leader in the category, boasting a 5.4 yards per carry average.
In 2021, the Giants’ offense combined to rush for an average of 4.0 yards per carry, tied for the seventh-lowest average in football.
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