New York Giants: Shane Vereen Out for Season, Who Needs To Step Up?


New York Giants running back Shane Vereen will miss the rest of 2016 due to injury. How will this impact the team and who needs to step up in his absence?

The 2016 season was shaping up to be Shane Vereen’s best year yet. The sixth-year back was on pace to rush for 784 yards and five rushing touchdowns, which would be career highs. He was also on a path for 42 catches for 400 yards. That would’ve given the former second round pick out of Cal almost 1,200 yards from scrimmage, also a career best.

With starter Rashad Jennings inactive in Week 3 against the Washington Redskins due to a thumb sprain, Shane Vereen stepped in and showed early on that he was more than capable of handling the workload. The only big knock on Vereen was his fumble, the second of his season. This one also killed what appeared to be a quality drive, just as his slip-up in Week 2 against the New Orleans Saints did.

Now it appears that Vereen won’t be getting anywhere near those numbers. After being hurt in Week 3, reports that the back is out for the rest of the season after electing to have surgery on the tricep injury.

This injury has to hurt for the Giants. They can all publicly say, “Next man up”, but Vereen is a talent that’s hard to find. He’s the guy Eli Manning turns to when the chips are down. He was the guy Eli relied on late in games to keep drives alive and move the sticks. One could argue this will bring Eli’s numbers down. Well, I’m here to say Eli’s numbers will actually improve.

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Vereen was Eli Manning’s crutch. We saw it on New York’s last drive against Washington. With 1:09 remaining in the fourth quarter, Eli almost didn’t bother going through his progression or reads and rather locked in on Vereen. Vereen was not really open, though, as he was smothered by ‘Skins linebacker-safety hybrid Su’a Cravens who made a fantastic play on the ball. It’s a throw Manning shouldn’t have made and he owned up to that mistake in the post-game press conference.

As a Giants fan, it has to be maddening to know that Big Blue has arguably the best trio of wide receivers the franchise has ever seen. Yet, when the Giants need a big catch, Eli Manning throws to Will Tye? Take another look at that back-breaking interception earlier in the fourth quarter. Odell Beckham, Jr. gets the team into a great position thanks to a couple amazing plays, then Manning gets pressured and forces one down the middle to Tye and gets picked. Meanwhile, Sterling Shepard was wide open for a first down crossing the middle.

Eli needs to start leaning more on the wideouts. Other than one mix-up in the Week 1 game against the Cowboys, Shepard has been surgical with his routes and has only dropped one or two balls. He’s becoming a sure thing on par with—and better than—Steve Smith from 2007-10. Victor Cruz continues to make big plays but is only targeted a few times per game. If the defensive focus hones in on Beckham, either Shepard or Cruz should be open on every single pass.

What about the running backs? Jennings should be the starter, but his health and productivity will be hampered by the bum thumb. Next up on the depth chart is Orleans Darkwa, who equaled Vereen’s rushing stats in Week 3 and held on to the ball. After Darkwa (great name for a late night TV show, Orleans!), the Giants have free agent acquisition Bobby Rainey, who had a nice catch and run Sunday, and fifth-round draft pick out of UCLA, Paul Perkins.

Rainey will most likely be the third down back. Manning could still lean on Rainey as he did with Vereen, but the results simply won’t be the same. Many thought Perkins was one of the bigger steals of the 2016 draft, calling him Tiki 2.0. True to his name, Perkins has a serious case of fumble-itis just as Tiki did before Tom Coughlin rode into town.

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Vereen’s absence won’t be something the Giants can easily account for. New York’s schedule won’t make operations any easier. The G-Men will have to battle through a hellish five game stretch that includes a Monday night visit in Minnesota, a home game against Baltimore, then London for the Los Angeles Rams, home against the soaring Eagles, and home against the gritty Bengals.

If the Giants don’t clean up their mistakes and start trusting their talented wide receiver trio, they could be looking at a 2-6 record heading into the second half of the season.