The “Wayne Train” isn’t slowing down.
Giants running back Wayne Gallman has scored more rushing touchdowns in his past four games (five) than he totaled in the first 42 games of his career (three). As the Giants prepare to face the NFL’s worst rushing defense Sunday — the Bengals are allowing 5.0 yards per carry — Gallman is one of the biggest keys to victory and keeping pace atop the NFC East.
“You can see him gaining confidence as he goes, building on some of the positive things he’s done,” offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said. “Then when he’s had an adversity or a setback in some way, he tries to understand what happened and learn from it. He’s embracing the opportunity. We’re lucky to have him.”
Over four years with the Giants, Gallman, 26, has been stuck behind the likes of Orleans Darkwa, Paul Perkins, Shane Vereen, Buck Allen, Devonta Freeman and Dion Lewis. Oh, and Saquon Barkley.
Gallman was inactive when Barkley suffered a torn ACL in Week 2 and didn’t become the feature back until after Freeman signed, started four games and went down with an ankle injury. Gallman’s workload has increased in four consecutive games, and he topped out at 18 carries for 53 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles in Week 10.
The Bengals play aggressive press man-to-man coverage, so the Giants need to establish the threat of the run — especially with future Hall of Famer Geno Atkins playing fewer than 20 snaps per game nowadays in the middle of the line for Cincinnati.
A tweak in play-calling by Garrett has helped Gallman hit stride running between the tackles.
“We tried the outside zone with Saquon, because he gets there, and one cut and he’s up the field,” center Nick Gates said. “But with him getting hurt, we have been trying to stick the ball up in there and get on double-teams and get guys out of there.”
The longest-tenured Giants have been refreshed by two changes that go hand-in-hand: Meaningful games in November for the first time since 2016 and the opportunity for Gallman, who didn’t sulk when his opportunities dwindled in years past.
“Wayne and I had a talk whenever it was his week to be the starting back and I told him straight up, ‘This is an opportunity of a lifetime. Go get it,’ ” wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. “I’ve always had faith in Wayne ever since they beat up on us in college, so I’ve seen him run the ball for years now and I couldn’t wait for him to get this opportunity.”
Gallman ran for 205 yards and two touchdowns combined for Clemson in two bowl game wins against Shepard and Oklahoma. He earned the nickname “Wayne Train” in college for running over a safety at the goal line.
This seems like the setup for a vintage performance.
“Wayne is essentially a young player,” Garrett said. “With the guys that he’s played behind here, he hasn’t played that much football at this level. He’s exactly what I’m talking about in terms of a player who goes about it the right way. He wants to be great for our team.”