Ahmad Bradshaw hasn’t changed the way he runs physically, but he certainly hopes to change the nature of the Giants’ rushing game.
He’s the starter now, having moved ahead of the brittle Brandon Jacobs, and will have to utilize his often-dazzling cutback ability to rejuvenate a ground game that stagnated last season. And he’ll have to do it against a Carolina team that features two 1,000-yard rushers in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. In fact, Williams and Stewart became the NFL’s first set of teammates to rush for more than 1,100 yards each – Stewart with 1,133 and Williams with 1,117.
That’s a pretty tall order for Bradshaw, who until this summer served as a backup to the 6-foot-4, 264-pound Jacobs. For one thing, the 5-9, 198-pound Bradshaw doesn’t have the crushing power of a Jacobs, though he does often run between the tackles. For another, he’ll have to stay healthy enough to handle the load.
That part of the equation, however, is going just fine right now.
"I can't wait to see what my feet can do," Bradshaw said.
The injuries to both feet and his left ankle, all of which required surgery, are giving him only minimal soreness after a long practice of hard cutting.
“As far as the preseason, I did what I had to do explosion-wise,” said Bradshaw, who finished the exhibitions with 167 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. “I satisfied myself.”
Bradshaw’s bow-legged running style was the major reason behind his physical problems, which included stress fractures in both feet. Doctors inserted screws to keep the fractures from breaking through. And though it might have crossed the running back’s mind to consciously change his style, the gait remains the same.
“I’m bow-legged as ever,” Bradshaw said. “I thought I’d end up running on the inside of my feet, but it just doesn’t happen. It’s unnatural. It’s just the style I run in. I don’t walk bow-legged but I run bow-legged.
“It’s like I lose all control of that when I’m running.”
Bradshaw will have to keep control of his issues if he expects to improve on his 778-yard, seven-touchdown output of last year. Of course, he spent most of his weekdays riding the stationary bike, nursing his lower extremities so he could play on Sunday.
But this year, more is expected from him. Only further injuries at this point will take him from the lead back spot and cause a reinstatement of the disaffected Jacobs. But Jacobs’ current discomfiture hasn’t affected the relationship between teammates who dress in adjacent lockers.
“I may get more touches as a starter, but other than that it’s going to be me and Brandon grabbing the ball most of the time. We both still have our same responsibilities.
“We’re still brothers. If he has a problem with the front office, that has nothing to do with me. We still have the same relationship.”
Not the same paycheck, though. Jacobs, signed through 2012, is due to make $3.65 million this year. Bradshaw, in the final year of his four-year rookie contract, is due to make a hair over $1 million.
Jacobs’ anger over the situation is apparent, though he seemed resigned not to look too far down the road.
“I don’t envision anything,” Jacobs said. “I come to work every day and work hard. Whatever happens happens.”
For bargaining position alone, Bradshaw’s move up in class could be advantageous at the end of the year.
The immediate future includes the Panthers and their strong defensive front. Bradshaw could also be out there the majority of third down situations.
“That’s something we put in,” Bradshaw said. “I’ve had that role for a while, so I think I will be.”
If it plays out right, the change to the slasher over the pounder should reap some benefits.
“I don’t think it’ll change the physicalness on the field,” Bradshaw said. “It’ll give us an extra boost.”