Editor’s note: This is the third part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Giants matchups to watch Sunday, 10 a.m., at the MetLife Stadium
[MATCHUP NO. 3: Rod Streater vs. Trumaine McBride]
[MATCHUP NO. 2: Menelik Watson vs. Justin Tuck]
Raiders RB Rashad Jennings vs. Giants MLB Jon Beason
Tale of the tape:
Jennings (27): 6-foot-1, 231 pounds, fifth season, Liberty
Beason (52): 6-feet, 232 pounds, seventh season, Miami (Fla.)
NEW YORK -- Raiders running back Rashad Jennings doesn’t consider himself a backup. With all the injuries in the NFL these days, he doesn’t think anyone getting paid to play is a reserve. Every player, Jennings says, will get his moment.
Moments come often playing behind Darren McFadden. The oft-injured playmaker has missed time in six straight professional seasons with a variety of ailments. He’s had trouble with his feet and his knee. This season, a hamstring has kept him down.
[RELATED: McFadden ruled out Sunday]
He’ll miss his second start on Sunday against the New York Giants, leaving Jennings to carry the load in a pivotal contest for both teams. The Giants rank ninth in run defense, but Jennings’ physical rushing style could pose a real problem.
He’s fresh off a game where he had 102 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries and seven catches for 74 yards. He had averaged 3.7 yards after contact, accentuating a toughness Jennings prides himself on.
“You’ve got to run hard and never give up on a play,” Jennings said. “That’s how I play. That’s how I expect myself to run.”
Jennings doesn’t have McFadden’s big-play burst, but he’s more consistent churning out average runs while working into a defense’s second level.
That’s where middle linebacker Jon Beason will be waiting. The veteran has given the Giants a real boost over the past three weeks, which coincides with their recent resurgence. He's a veteran that must be accounted for in the run game.
“Our protection is going to have to be really solid in the game and we’re going to have to do a good job of blocking in the run game because they’re really triggered by their front,” Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “Jon Beason, I think, has really improved their run defense. They’ve really improved over the last few weeks.”
That’s a real step forward for Beason, who was left for dead after a pair of injury-plagued seasons in Carolina. He flamed out after signing a five-year, $50-million contract in 2011, and became trade bait for a Giants team in need of a sure tackler.
He’ll have to be against Jennings, another castoff hoping to rekindle his career. Jennings had lackluster showings as an occasional starter in Jacksonville, which prompted him to sign a one-year deal with the Raiders. Jennings has fared better this season, with a positive outlook and a zeal for his craft.
“He’s been a very pleasant surprise for us,” Olson said. “He’s done some very good things thus far. Again, he -- like everybody else that we preach day in and day out -- needs to just come in every day and try to get a little bit better every day. Then when you have an opportunity you’ll be able to make the most of it, and I think he’s doing that up to this point. He’s going to get another opportunity this week, so again he’s been working hard at it. I’m happy for him.”
Jennings is rarely happy with his performance. He’ll need to be in order to slow a vicious pass rusher hell-bent on harassing quarterback Terrelle Pryor. That’s what drives him to work hard and continue to improve.
“I expect to play well every week. I expect to help my team win,” Jennings said. “I know how important it is that I perform this week and every other. I take that responsibility seriously.”