To say last season was a disappointment would be an understatement. The Giants, fresh off a 12-4 record in 2008 and Super Bowl championship in 2007, started off 2009 with an impressive 5-0 record. Then the wheels came off. The Giants managed to win only three of their final eleven games. Not only did the Giants’ defense check out, but their once vaunted running game dealt with various injuries and became virtually non-existent. Yes, Eli Manning posted career high passing totals (4,021 yards, 27 TDs), but that’s not Giants football. With Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw healthy for 2010, can we expect a bounce back season?

After totting the rock at an impressive 5.0 yards per carry clip in 2007 and 2008, Brandon Jacobs only managed 3.4 yards per carry last year. More surprisingly, the bruising Southern Illinois product saw his rushing touchdown total fall from 15 to 5. However, Giants fans found out in the off-season that Jacobs played the 2009 season with a bum left knee. Give Jacobs some credit though, he missed only one game and never made a big deal about the knee. Even though he finished with a three-year low 835 rushing yards, Jacobs gutted it out. During the off-season, Jacobs had his knee scoped and has received a lot of praise thus far in training camp.

One thing Giants fans should realize by now: Jacobs is not a workhorse running back. Jacobs surprisingly had a career high 224 carries last season. When you are a 264 pound running back that has never surpassed 224 carries in five seasons, you aren’t ‘The Man’. Does Jacobs need to be ‘The Man’ though for the Giants rushing attack to be successful?

Enter Ahmad Bradshaw. Last year, Bradshaw posted career highs in carries (164), receptions (21), and total yards (985). Bradshaw did post a career low 4.8 yards per rush, by hey, he was 1.4 yards better than B. Jake. But were things really that rosey for A. Brad?

If we look at his splits from when the Giants started strongly, to when the Giants struggled, you’ll see a startling trend.

  Weeks 1-5 Weeks 6+
Rushes 11.6 10.5
Yards 75 40.3
Yrds/Rush 6.5 3.8

This pretty much tells us that Bradshaw was producing at a high level when the Giants were winning. When trying to help the Giants climb back into games, Bradshaw was not as effective. However, alike Jacobs, Bradshaw spent the majority of season dealing with injuries. Bradshaw did suit up for 15 of 16 games and was often seen in a walking boot during the week. The man definitely deserves some major credit. After having screws inserted into his feet during the off-season, expect Bradshaw to comes back with a vengeance this year.

The key to the Resurgence in the running game?

Defense. During 2008, the Giants defense was the game’s best and the running game responded by gashing opposing defenses for over 2,000 yards and 500 carries. In 2009, the Giants’ defense was torched for 325 yards per game and gave up an ungodly 85 points over their last two games. Perry Fewell was brought in from Buffalo to shore up the defense. The defense sets up the offense and if the Giants want to go back to their productive running ways, the defense needs to make plays.

Expectations for 2010?

Reports coming out of Giants’ training camp are that Bradshaw is running with the first team. And this is probably the right move for the G-Men. Jacobs upright bruising rushing style makes him an ideal fit to play the ‘closer’ and goal line role for the Giants offense. Jacobs isn’t the 20-carries-per-game back that the Giants had hoped for. But he doesn’t need to be. Bradshaw’s shifty running style makes him an ideal ‘starter’ that should keep defenses honest for Eli Manning and Co.

Fearless Projections:

Jacobs: 900 total yards, 10 TDs
Bradshaw: 1,100 total yards, 5 TDs

Who should start in the Giant backfield this year?