When the New York Giants selected Eric Gray, a running back from Oklahoma, in the 5th round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the expectation was for him to evolve into a proficient starter. This move serves as a safety net considering the potential exit of Saquon Barkley.
Despite not yet signing his $10.1M franchise tag, Barkley has abstained from organized team activities until now. Nonetheless, the Giants still harbor hope that he will remain with the team for the 2023 season.
In light of this situation, the Giants are preparing to assign Gray a significant number of carries, relying on his performance at the college level. We must remember that having an outstanding running back is a luxury, rather than a necessity, for a team aspiring to reach the Super Bowl.
General Manager, Joe Schoen, has already avoided increasing Barkley’s extension, consequently reducing his potential payout and putting him in a challenging position.
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The Giants may have to lean on Eric Gray earlier than anticipated:
Should the Giants decide to part ways with Barkley, Gray certainly possesses the concrete attributes needed to make an immediate impact.
Lance Zierlein from NFL.com is of the opinion that given his size and skills, Gray has the potential to be a reliable running back.
“Decisive, creative runner with the size and skill set for three-down consideration on the pro level. Gray won’t be a home run hitter in the open field, but his short-area burst and oily hips open access to the entire field, with cuts coming suddenly and at unpredictable angles.”
The 5-foot-9 and 206-pound back produced 1,595 yards from scrimmage in 2022, tallying 11 scores and averaging 6.4 yards per carry. His obvious production at a big school stands out. His north-south style and one-cut prowess allowed him to dominate at the collegiate level. His primary vulnerability at the next level may be his power to plow through initial contact.
Recently, his former position coach Demarco Murray spoke about Gray’s quality.
John Fennelly of the Giants Wire connected the dots with Murray, who played a big part in Gray’s development last season.
“[Gray benefitted from] having a chance to come here and learn from a guy who’s been where he’s trying to get,” Murray said on the Giants Huddle Podcast. “Eric, since the first day I spoke with him, he’s always had a pro mentality. He’s always been very mature, always been an extremely hard work working kid with a great mindset. So for me, just trying to fine-tune some things here and there for him. But more importantly, just letting him know that, hey, man, you’re gonna be coached hard, you’re gonna be coached the right way.
Gray possesses the mindset required to confront challenges and continue his development seamlessly. Effective and rigorous coaching will be the catalyst he needs to progress to the next stage, which might entail replacing one of the NFL’s most formidable running backs, Saquon Barkley.
Given that Gray aligns with the Giants’ culture transformation and proves to be an exceptionally coachable player, his prospects for success undoubtedly increase. Murray attested that he never had to be concerned about the young back, who demonstrated the capacity to absorb information and then manifest it on the football field.
“Eric has always been a guy that he can see the field. As a coach, you always appreciate a guy that you can talk to in the classroom where you can tell him more detail and then he goes out there and does it that same second, that same way. And he’s always been a guy like that since he stepped on campus for me,” Murray said.