After spending the last four seasons in the NFL as a backup, Rashad Jennings will get his chance to shine in 2014 as the No. 1 running back for the Giants.
New York signed Jennings to a two-year deal on the first day of free agency, and despite there being six total running backs on the roster, Andre Brown's departure has left the 29-year-old Jennings with no true competition.
Despite being 29, Jennings has just 387 career carries and has produced quality numbers in limited opportunities. Small sample aside, he averaged 4.5 yards per carry in 2013, the same rate as Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster, and a better rate than both Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore.
Even with a large frame at 6-foot-1 and 231 pounds, Jennings displayed the big-play ability that the Giants' backfield lacked. The Giants, as a team, had just four rushes of over 20 yards in 381 attempts. Jennings matched that mark with just 163.
But while Jennings gives the Giants big-play potential in the backfield, he struggles to pass block. New York's offensive line allowed 40 sacks and 83 QB hits last season and Jennings will have to improve his pass blocking if he wants to stay on the field, especially if David Wilson, who played in just five games before injuring his neck, is able to return in 2014 after undergoing a fusion of his vertebrae.
Even with his struggles, it could be tough to keep Jennings off of the field if offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo elects to use a more West Coast-style offense. The quick passes and check downs of the offense would take pressure off of Jennings to block and could also showcase his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Jennings caught 36 passes for 292 yards in 2013 and could catch even more in 2014 with a suspect group of receivers.
Even with his blocking issues, the upside of Jennings is far greater than that of any other healthy running back on the Giants' roster. And while the Giants could address the position in the NFL Draft, more pressing needs at other positions make the job, for the first time in Jennings' career, his to lose.