The New York Giants have been actively modifying their team composition in recent weeks, primarily due to an unfortunate series of injuries affecting various positions. Although the offensive line has received considerable attention, it was the running back unit that faced a major blow last week, culminating in rookie Eric Gray’s relegation to the injured reserve list.
Setbacks in the Giants’ Running Back Corps
The situation compounded when the Giants disclosed that Gary Brightwell, the backup running back, would also transition to injured reserve. Brightwell, a sixth-round selection in the 2021 draft, has had limited opportunities this season, with only nine carries for 19 yards, a stark contrast to his previous tally of 141 yards and a touchdown.
In 2022, Brightwell was prominently involved in kick returns, undertaking 26 returns for 555 yards, including a 47-yard longest run. However, his average of 21.3 yards per return didn’t quite measure up to the 25 yards automatically accorded from touchbacks.
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Gunner Olszewski Steps in for Week 8
In the aftermath of Brightwell’s setback, the Giants created space on their roster for Gunner Olszewski, preparing him for a crucial special teams responsibility in the Week 8 matchup against the New York Jets.
Olszewski’s history includes tenure with both the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers. He earned All-Pro honors in 2020 with the Patriots, accumulating impressive stats, including 346 return yards and a touchdown, with an average of 17.3 yards per return. His subsequent performances haven’t mirrored this high, slipping to averages well below his peak before his release from the Steelers.
Seeking Stability in Punt Returns
The Giants’ strategy concerning punt returners has been notably fluid in recent weeks, necessitating a potential long-term solution. Missteps from both Gray and Sterling Shepard compelled the team to consider Darius Slayton, a seasoned receiver, for the role.
With Olszewski now on board, the expectation hinges on his ability to deliver consistent, reliable results, particularly in safely fielding punts. Following a week of promising practice sessions, the team is optimistic about his contributions to Sunday’s game, especially in securing advantageous field positioning against a formidable Jets defense.