Eli Manning is entering his twelfth season as quarterback for the New York Giants. He has seen many wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, and offensive lineman come and go during his tenure, but he has remained a mainstay, and someone who can be counted on to line up under center each and every game.
Manning has thrown passes to tight ends such as Kevin Boss, Jeremy Shockey, Martellus Bennett, Jake Ballard, Brandon Myers, and Larry Donnell. Manning has fired passes towards wide receivers Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith, Domenik Hixon, Reuben Randle, Victor Cruz, and Odell Beckham Jr, amongst many others.
Running backs can be an important part of the passing game, not only to block incoming blitzes, but to become someone to look to throw the ball to when the quarterback does not have much time to look down the field. It can be debilitating for a defense when well-timed screen passes help an offense maintain a long drive.
Eli Manning has also had his share of running backs to throw the ball to including Tiki Barber, Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, D.J. Ware, Rashad Jennings, and Andre Williams.
Manning’s first three seasons as Giants quarterback coincided with Barber’s last three seasons in the NFL, from 2004-06. Barber was a great backfield threat for a young quarterback to have, as Barber averaged nearly 55 receptions in the three seasons. Since then, no Giants running back has accounted for more than 47 receptions in a season (Bradshaw, 2010).
Starting this season, Manning will have a new running back to throw to, one that has proven himself to be quite the menace out of the backfield in the receiving game.
After spending four years with the New England Patriots, Shane Vereen signed a three-year contract with the Giants this offseason. Vereen turned 26 on March 2, so the Giants should have Vereen during the prime of his career.
Vereen became a major target for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and even more so in this year’s postseason, particularly the Super Bowl. Vereen caught 11 passes in the Patriots Super Bowl win over the Seattle Seahawks, which is an NFL record for most receptions by a running back in the Super Bowl, and is tied for second all-time for any player behind only Demaryius Thomas 13 receptions the previous Super Bowl.
Vereen has spent the past two years with the Patriots as one of the top running back pass catchers in the NFL. Last season, he caught 52 passes for 447 yards. The previous season, he caught 47 passes for 427 yards in only eight games. Brady developed a strong rapport with Vereen, one that Giants fans hope he develops with Manning.
Vereen will be a welcome addition for Manning and the Giants offense. Along with Beckham, Cruz, Randle, and Jennings, Vereen should give the Giants plenty of options that the defense needs to focus on when they are on offense.
While Vereen clearly does not have the running ability of Barber, he may become Manning’s biggest threat out of the backfield since Barber. Jennings will most likely get the bulk of the carries for the Giants, but Vereen should become that security blanket that Manning can rely on throughout the season. Giants fans should grow to love Vereen, as he should help to extend drives and give the defense another player they need to focus on in the Giants passing attack.