Giants rookie RB is finally starting to feel comfortable in the preseason

New York Giants Eric Gray (20) celebrates after scoring touchdown in the second quarter
Michael Karas / USA TODAY NETWORK

The New York Giants added depth to their backfield this offseason, selecting RB Eric Gray in the fifth round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Gray will serve as a relief back for the team’s superstar rusher, Saquon Barkley, but he will also be a key contributor on special teams. The rookie has been New York’s first-team return specialist throughout the preseason.

After a difficult first outing against the Detroit Lions in Week 1 of the preseason, Gray bounced back in the Giants’ second preseason game. Gray told The New York Post that he is starting to feel “more settled in” after his second preseason game.

Eric Gray improves in Week 2 of the preseason

In Week 1 of the preseason, Gray took five carries for only nine yards as the Giants’ backup offensive linemen failed to create open rushing lanes for the rookie. But he bounced back in Week 2, rushing for 16 yards and his first career touchdown on five carries. New York’s offensive line did a much better job of blocking up front for Gray, evidenced best by rookie center John Michael Schmitz’s efforts on the nine-yard rushing touchdown.

“You can see I’m a hard-nosed runner, like on the touchdown that I scored, being able to get in space and make people miss. You had to bow down and get in there.”

Eric Gray on his touchdown run in Week 2 of the preseason via The New York Post

Gray is feeling more “settled in” after second preseason game

Following his performance against the Panthers, Gray spoke to The New York Post and reflected on his growth through the first two weeks of the preseason.

“First game you’re just trying to get your feet wet, you’re just trying to make an impression,” Gray told The Post. “It’s just a different environment, you’re trying to see where you fit in.”

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Gray found where he fits in during his second preseason game, rushing with purpose out of the backfield and comfortably fielding kickoffs and punts without error. He fielded the majority of his return opportunities with a fair catch, however, he did return one punt for a gain of nine yards.

“This game I felt comfortable, more settled in, more like myself,” Gray said following the exhibition match with the Panthers. 

How Gray will boost the Giants’ offense as a rookie

He may not be the same home-run-hitter as his teammate Barkley, but Gray has the ability to produce big-time plays. According to Pro Football Focus, Gray had 44 carries of 10+ yards last season, ranking first among Big 12 running backs.

Gray demonstrated that he had a well-rounded skillset during his collegiate career. He totaled 1,595 yards and 11 touchdowns from scrimmage as a senior last year for Oklahoma, proving he can be a quality player at the next level. As a rookie in 2023, Gray will develop behind Barkley as the team’s complementary running back while also providing quality return skills on special teams.