The New York Giants have been investing in the running back for years. Ever since Tiki Barber hung up his cleats, “Big Blue” has had a revolving door of runners come and go, none with any high-end success to note.
The team’s trend continued this spring when the Giants selected Clemson running back Wayne Gallman in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL draft. Gallman, a decorated runner from the national champion Clemson Tigers, brought a nice blend of skills to the table. While not overly fast or explosive, Gallman ran with admirable toughness between the tackles and illustrated smooth cuts to find a crease against some of the best defenses in the country.
Friday night, though, was a different story. In Gallman’s first action in a Giants uniform, he and the second team offensive line found yards hard to come by on the ground against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Giants as a whole were stifled by all comers in the white jerseys, managing just 75 rushing yards as a team on 23 attempts in a 20-12 loss.
But life was especially frustrating for Gallman, who didn’t carry the ball until after halftime, long after the Giants starters were removed from the contest.
Some of Gallman’s best runs in college came on outside zone/stretch concepts. He was able to press the line of scrimmage and bounce laterally to find space and gain the edge. But with offensive tackles Adam Bisnowaty and Chad Wheeler in the game, the Steelers completely overwhelmed the edge, collapsing the tackles backward and into the lap of Gallman when he looked to turn his runs outside.
In total, Gallman logged 15 total yards on six touches. The Clemson product was simply overwhelmed by a buzzing defensive front. Gallman did have one nice run between the tackles, putting his shoulder down and churning out 7 yards. But too often Gallman looked to make an extra cut instead of simply pressing for what was there for the taking. That adjustment is inevitable with most backs as they get their first taste of life in the NFL. Look for Gallman to adopt a more assertive north/south attitude in the coming weeks to compensate.
But as previously mentioned, the blame falls at the feet of New York’s feeble effort up front just as much as anywhere else. Pittsburgh’s second-unit defenders were able to physically impose their will against the Giants on most of Gallman’s carries. Whether it was Tyson Alualu scraping down the line and making a tackle for loss on a stretch run or Arthur Moats and T.J. Watt walking blockers into the backfield, a vast majority of one-on-one blocking reps were lost down the stretch.
If the poor play carries over into the first unit, then the prospects of a successful 2017 season diminish notably for Gallman; especially when comparing how he wins to that of UCLA product Paul Perkins. Perkins was a delightful prospect to scout in the buildup to the 2016 NFL draft, but he’s a different style runner. While Gallman is smooth, Perkins is twitchy and doesn’t handle early contact well, but he will make defenders miss with greater efficiency in space. With a year of development under his belt, Perkins stands firmly in the way of Gallman gaining early carries.
Where does Gallman go from here? Matching his effort after first contact would be helpful in separating him from the other backs on the Giants roster. On a number of marginal gains, Gallman was able to break a tackle attempt, but pursuit was simply too much to overcome.
In needing to sort out Paul Perkins, Shane Vereen, Gallman and Orleans Darkwa, the Giants should find a better pass/run ratio and generate some additional touches in order to decide who deserves what share of the carries. For Gallman, he’s going to need to distinguish himself with what he did well in college. Play tough in pass protection, catch the ball and be competent working between the tackles.
While it was a slow start for Giants runners on Friday night, there aren’t many backs who could have found room to work against the Steelers in this setting.
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