EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The New York Giants’ battered and bruised offensive backfield might be getting a familiar face back in time to face the undefeated Minnesota Vikings on Monday night.
Rashad Jennings, the team’s leading rusher with 863 yards last season, is making significant progress with the torn ligament in his left thumb that forced him to miss last week’s 29-27 loss to the Washington Redskins.
Jennings participated in several drills during Friday’s practice, enough to impress coach Ben McAdoo.
“Rashad had a very nice day,” McAdoo said. “He’s progressing nicely. He got some good work in. It’s still too early to tell if he can play. We’re looking at things on a day-to-day basis.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan also saw a significant change in Jennings.
“He’s improved from last week, so all we can do is hope for the best,” Sullivan said. “We have to wait and see how it all plays out.”
McAdoo was asked when a decision would be made about Jennings’ status.
“It’s not a game-time decision,” McAdoo said. “More than likely game day, probably.”
Jennings was not available to the media after Friday’s practice. He was spotted during practice running hard with the ball and catching passes out of the backfield, which was the biggest concern after he injured the thumb in the victory over New Orleans two weeks ago. It was the most active the seven-year veteran has been since injuring the thumb.
“He got some good work in,” McAdoo said.
It’s essential for the Giants to get Jennings back into the mix, considering they lost veteran Shane Vereen for the season with a torn triceps. Vereen was becoming more than just a third-down back and was the team’s leading rusher after three weeks with 147 yards on 31 carries (4.7 yards per carry). Jennings has 102 yards on 31 carries (3.3 yards per carry).
Luckily for the Giants they have Orleans Darkwa, a third-year pro out of Tulane signed by the Giants off the Dolphins’ practice squad in November 2014. Darkwa got his chance to see considerable action last Sunday, when he carried the ball 10 times for 53 yards and a touchdown.
Incredibly, there were thoughts Darkwa would get cut by the team in preseason. Now, a month later, he stands to be the starter if Jennings can’t go Monday night.
“It’s crazy how things happen,” said the 24-year-old Darkwa. “I hear it every year that I’m going to get cut or that I’m on the bubble. That doesn’t bother me. All I can do is try harder on the field and do what I can do.”
Darkwa is aware that as it stands, he’s No. 1 on the depth chart.
“It would be an unbelievable dream come true to make my first start on the big stage on ‘Monday Night Football,’ ” Darkwa said. “I can’t get too excited. I just have to play my game and be ready. I feel like I’m ready to be the main back. It’s what I did in college, but I know this is a different level. I’m confident enough to run the ball. I just have to make sure I can get the job done.
“I’m wishing for Rashad to have a speedy recovery, but if I’m needed, I’m ready.”
Sullivan doesn’t think rookie Paul Perkins, the fifth-round draft pick from UCLA, is ready to step in. However, the Giants think highly of Perkins — so highly that they kept him and released Andre Williams in training camp.
“He was not here in the spring,” Sullivan said of Perkins. “He missed a lot, so it’s just a matter of him trying to catch up. He’s had a lot to digest. We feel very confident with whomever we call upon.”
The way things looked Friday, it could very well be a return for Jennings, who has gained 3,281 yards and scored 20 touchdowns over his seven-year career.
NOTES: Six other Giants did not practice: CB Eli Apple (hamstring), OT Marshall Newhouse (calf), CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (groin), S Darian Thompson (foot), DT Robert Thomas (illness) and S Nat Berhe, who is still undergoing the league’s concussion protocol. Their status for Monday night’s game will be reviewed Saturday. . DE Olivier Vernon is listed with a wrist injury, and Vernon said it’s something that has bothered him for a long time and “is nothing more than a bee sting.” … DE Jason Pierre-Paul declared himself fit and ready to go Monday night. “It’s the ‘Monday Night Football’ game, so everyone is going to be watching,” Pierre-Paul said. “I’m going to get the job done. I’m focused and locked in.”. The Giants plan to practice in New Jersey on Sunday, then fly to Minnesota.
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