Giants’ second-year running back could sneakily play a larger role this season

New York Giants running back Eric Gray (20) carries the ball as Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Bradley Roby (33) and linebacker Shaquille Leonard (53) pursue during the second half at MetLife Stadium
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants are planning for life after Saquon Barkley. The superstar running back departed for the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency this offseason. As a result, the Giants had to bring new talent into their backfield with free agent Devin Singletary and fifth-round draft pick Tyrone Tracy Jr.

However, it’s a returning player that is beginning to create intrigue at OTAs. Second-year running back Eric Gray has impressed during the team’s initial practices and could sneakily play a larger role this season.

Eric Gray could make an impact for the Giants in the receiving game

New York Giants running back Eric Gray (20) runs against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half at State Farm Stadium
Sep 17, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, USA; New York Giants running back Eric Gray (20) runs against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Gray has been the forgotten man in Big Blue’s backfield this offseason as the majority of the attention has been given to Singletary and Tracy. However, Gray has been impressive, too, during OTAs. In particular, Gray’s skillset as a receiver has stood out.

Art Stapleton of North Jersey praised Gray during OTAs, saying the 24-year-old looked “very smooth out of the backfield” in a video posted on X:

As a rookie in 2023, Gray was targeted as a receiver seven times, grabbing six receptions for 22 yards. He wasn’t featured primarily as the team’s receiving back as Barkley received the majority of the workload as both a rusher and receiver. However, Gray flashed his potential as a receiver during his collegiate career and seems to have sharpened that skillset at OTAs. While Singletary serves as the team’s lead rusher this season, Gray could be the scat back in receiving situations.

In college, Gray totaled 99 receptions for 827 yards and five touchdowns across four seasons. In his senior campaign, Gray racked up 1,366 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 213 carries while also adding 33 receptions for 229 yards.

The Giants are building a running back by committee

New York Giants Eric Gray (20) celebrates after scoring touchdown in the second quarter
Aug 18, 2023; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; The Carolina Panthers vs. the New York Giants in an NFL preseason game at MetLife Stadium. New York Giants Eric Gray (20) celebrates after scoring touchdown in the second quarter. Mandatory Credit: Michael Karas-The Record

The Giants’ new backfield will no longer be led by one workhorse back like it was during the Barkley era. Instead, the coaching staff seems like it will be using a committee backfield led by Singletary and complemented by Tracy and Gray.

In this committee, Singletary will be the primary rusher on first and second downs. Tracy can be a spark plug as a dynamic, tackle-breaking runner with a history as a wide receiver. But Gray could also earn some reps as a receiving back with good vision and proficiency for churning out tough yards.

Gray cut his teeth as a rookie on special teams but should play a larger role on offense this season after being removed as the return specialist later in the season. While he could still see some action on special teams, Gray’s development as a receiving back should pave the way for him to see more playing time with the Giants’ offense in 2024.

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