Tom Coughlin isn't big into labels. But he did say today that Brandon Jacobs would remain his No. 1 back despite yardage figures that have slipped from a 5.0-yard per carry average last year to 3.6 through the first five games of this season.
In fact, Coughlin said he wasn't worried about the slippage at all, or the various TV pundits that have alternately accused Jacobs of "tiptoeing" toward the hole or being too impatient to get to that hole, thereby not giving enough time for said hole to open up. And he wasn't particularly worried about Jacobs' own displeasure with his performance, as Jacobs related on ESPN Radio Monday.
As far as he's concerned, Jacobs doesn't have to turn around his season.
"I don’t know what people keep talking about turning around," Coughlin said. "The guy had some outstanding runs the other day. He had the numbers in terms of rushes. He had the usual number of power runs that he has. I don’t think there is anything for Brandon to be down on.
"This keeps coming up. I don’t know what the expectations are. He is a power runner and that is what he does. If you are talking about the goal line – it was good penetration and he didn’t get the opportunity to get into the end zone. But he will continue to work at that and continue to study and continue to look at himself. And he continues to be a vital part of our offensive team."
There's something interesting going on here. Jacobs certainly doesn't have the yardage figures he usually puts up. By this time last year he'd already had two 100-yard efforts and had scored four rushing touchdowns. But except for his 21-carry effort in the opener against Washington, his number of carries were in the mid-teens the other four games.
This year, the total yardage is down -- his high is 92 yards against Tampa Bay and Kansas City, and the total carries are up. He had 16 carries the first two games. The three after that he's had 26, 21, and 21. And that's where Coughlin wants Jacobs.
"I think we've run the ball," Coughlin said. "We had 41 carries the other day and we had 41 the week before. So we do have the number of runs. And as such, Brandon usually averages right around 21, 20, 22 carries, which is right about where it should be."
The thing you have to remember about Jacobs is this. As important as yards are, the number of carries is just as important. Perhaps more. Having to bring down that 264-pound body, even after a yard or two, takes a lot of energy. Having to deal with Jacobs more than 20 times per game, regardless of whether he's breaking off 20-yard runs or not, will
wear down a defense and make things easier for a guy like Ahmad Bradshaw to do his thing.
Consider this, too. Jacobs' tentativeness -- there's no doubt he's been a bit slow hitting the hole -- may be due to some self-preservation. He's told certain media members that one of his goals is to play a full 16 games. Tender ankles and knees cost him nine games over the last three seasons. So perhaps he's sublimating his bullish ways now in order to stay healthy for bigger games later in the season.
Games like this week's in New Orleans, perhaps.
Whatever the case, the overall running game hasn't suffered. And now that Danny Ware and his dislocated elbow are ready to get back into action, too, another weapon may be on its way.
"Well, we're averaging (160.4) yards a game rushing, so some how, some way, the ball is moving down the field," Coughlin said.