Giants rookie RB Andre Williams makes a good first impression at Hall of Fame game
CANTON, Ohio — If the first look at fourth-round pick Andre Williams is an indicator of what he will be able to bring to the team on a regular basis, the Giants’ offense should look a lot less broken this season.
Williams, the NCAA’s leading rusher last season, was the standout offensive player among the Giants’ starters in Sunday’s Pro Football Hall of Fame Game against the Bills at Fawcett Stadium. Williams, who scored the first touchdown of the preseason in the Giants’ 17-13 victory while showing speed and physicality from the backfield, follows in a litany of Giants rookies who have made strong first impressions in preseason openers. The most famous was Jeremy Shockey, the 2002 first-round pick who burst on the scene on the same field.
The Giants spent the offseason trying to transplant energy into an offense that was the main disappointment in last year’s 7-9 flop. Those changes included a new offensive coordinator in Ben McAdoo, a revamped offensive line, and renewed attention to the backfield. They brought in free agent Rashad Jennings and drafted Williams. Because former first-round pick David Wilson’s future is uncertain due to a neck injury, those last two additions could prove critical to the 2014 season.
The starting offense was on the field for three series. Three very different series.
They started with a three-and-out. They followed that with a no-huddle set that was supposed to signal the future but wound up reflecting the past. Eli Manning tried to elude a pass rush and spun right into Bills lineman Kyle Williams. Manning fumbled and it was recovered after a scramble by former Giant Keith Rivers. The Bills converted the turnover into a field goal and a 3-0 lead.
The third series, though, left the Giants brimming with optimism.
Even though they were facing the Bills’ second-unit defense, the Giants were able to run the ball on a 12-play, 80-yard drive. Seventy-two of those yards came on the ground, 37 of them from Williams. He scored the first touchdown of the preseason on a 3-yard run up the middle behind a crushing block from fullback Henry Hynoski.
“Obviously, to get a touchdown on the third series was nice,” Manning said. “We didn’t get off to a great start, had a fumble we can’t have. That’s going to hurt us. The first game back, you’re going to work out some of the kinks, get used to getting hit again, a real rush. I thought there were some improvements. It was a good start.”
The Giants knew Williams was capable of those kind of physical straight-ahead runs when they drafted him. What he showed one play before the touchdown is what has them truly excited. Williams took a handoff to the left and beat the defense to the corner, turning it upfield for a 21-yard gain.
The final stats for the starting offense: Twenty plays, 82 yards, a touchdown and a turnover. Manning completed 6 of 7 passes for 43 yards. Three of his completions went to starting running back Rashad Jennings and his longest completion was for 10 yards to tight end Daniel Fells. His only incompletion came on the first snap of the game to Jerrel Jernigan, which was preceded by some confusion at the line of scrimmage among the receivers. He did not attempt a pass to either Victor Cruz or Rueben Randle.
Besides Williams’ touchdown run, the Giants got a 47-yard field goal from Brandon McManus. The halftime score was tied at 10. The Bills scored their only touchdown on Jeff Tuel’s 2-yard pass to Robert Woods. The Bills seemed poised to score the go-ahead points in the final minute of the half when Cooper Taylor missed a block that led to a blocked punt and Zack Bowman was flagged for defensive holding in the red zone. But both found redemption when Bowman broke up a pass in the end zone and Taylor intercepted it for a touchback with 20 seconds left in the second quarter. Bowman also intercepted a pass in the end zone on the first Bills drive of the third quarter.