Perusing the names that compose the New York Giants' backfield, it seems like a group destined for committee work.
Rashad Jennings is a career complement. Andre Williams has never found a niche in two seasons and could be cut. Shane Vereen is the most dynamic back, but will mainly be used in the passing game. Rookie Paul Perkins has the most upside on the roster, but no experience. Orleans Darkwa has never rushed for 50 yards in a game in three seasons. Bobby Rainey is a journeyman vet who can play special teams. And Marshaun Coprich is an undrafted free agent from Illinois State.
A committee, while the most obvious approach with a spare-parts unit, isn't how running backs coach Craig Johnson wants to deploy his backs.
"What I've learned is that if you can have a couple of guys playing a lot, then a spare guy, that's the best way to go," Johnson said, per the team's official website.
Johnson points to Jennings' play at the end of last season as evidence the veteran might be the man to carry the workload in 2016.
"At the end of the year, he was probably playing as well as any back in football," Johnson said of Jennings.
That's high praise from the running backs coach. In the final four games of the season, Jennings rushed for 81, 107, 74 and 170 yards, respectively. He finished 2015 with 195 totes for 863 yards and 4.4 yards per carry. Last year marked the only season in Jennings' career in which he earned more than 170 carries and surpassed the 750-yard mark.
Sure, Jennings ended the season on a hot streak -- we should add the Giants lost three of those four games -- but even Johnson concedes the 31-year-old runner needs to prove he can handle a workload again.
"That's something that's got to be determined," Johnson said. "He has not had that kind of workload in his career. Obviously, last year was his career best year, and so we have to determine that and that's why a lot of teams go more toward playing two, so they can have a guy fresh for your fourth quarter run, like in December when the postseason is on the line. So we'll start and we'll see how it goes. I certainly think the way he ended last year, he deserves an opportunity to go out there and be the starter, which is what he is. But there's going to be a lot of competition and he understands that, and I think he'll raise his game to that level."
As Around The NFL's Conor Orr pointed out from Giants camp this week, Vereen should get plenty of snaps, even if he's not the starter. The first- and second-down workhorse on the ground could be determined early in the preseason.
Asked why he should be the main ball carrier, Jennings said simply: "I'm a complete back."
We'll see if Big Blue believes he's complete enough to earn the lion's share of the carries at age 31.