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Jacobs slimmer this season

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Jacobs slimmer this season

Post  Big_Pete on Sun Aug 08, 2010 5:35 pm

Slimmer Brandon Jacobs expects added flexibility will make the difference this season
Published: Sunday, August 08, 2010, 9:00 AM
Mike Garafolo/The Star-Ledger Mike Garafolo/The Star-Ledger

ALBANY, N.Y. — Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said last week he can’t point to one factor for why Brandon Jacobs’ production dropped off last year.

Jacobs, though, has one in mind.

“I had fat last year, over 9 percent,” the sixth-year running back said as he walked off the field following yesterday morning’s practice. “This year, I’m under six.”

Like a defensive back in the open field, Jacobs’ slowing metabolism caught him from behind in 2009. And in the meantime, the athleticism he used to take for granted disappeared as well. In just a few months, the former game-changing, bull-dozing ball carrier learned just how quickly a running back can be considered old.

Sure, the offensive line wasn’t clearing holes like they had in the past. Yes, fullback Madison Hedgecock couldn’t run through defenders while battling a shoulder injury that required offseason surgery. There was also the play-calling that even running backs coach Jerald Ingram was questioning. And Jacobs was playing through knee issues that bugged him from the opener through his final game in Week 16, a six-carry, 1-yard performance against the Panthers.

But there was one overriding issue that stopped Jacobs from even occasionally overcoming all of the above: He wasn’t in top shape.

Thanks to a new approach in his workouts to stress speed and agility over strength, the 28-year-old Jacobs is showing early signs of regaining the 1,000-yard form he had during the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

“He looks good to me. Brandon looks good,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “He’s running well, he goes out there every day, he can work and that’s a big plus. He looks fast.”

Perhaps “agile” is a better word.

Jacobs, who is splitting first-team carries in camp with Ahmad Bradshaw, claimed he never lost his straight-ahead speed last year, and his 74-yard catch-and-run touchdown up the left sideline against the Cowboys in Week 13 is certainly evidence to support his claim.

The problem was his explosiveness out of breaks and mini-jukes within the hole. It just wasn’t there anymore — partly because of the injured knee, which required offseason surgery, but also because of his suddenly stiff hips.

As a freakish, oversized young player who figured he’d bull his way to 1,000 yards, Jacobs always focused on getting bigger and stronger.

Now, he realizes he needed to be more flexible.

“I’m getting older,” said Jacobs, who now weighs about 265 pounds. “Power is instilled in me. I’m born strong, I don’t think I have to do much to keep strong. I just have to do a lot of work to get my speed up and work on my core flexibility, my hip flexibility.”

Sean Donellan, the sports performance director at Velocity Sports Performance in Mahwah, agreed.

“He came to me and said, ‘I have a bunch of 6-yard runs. I need 60-yard runs,’” said Donellan, who met Jacobs through a mutual friend. “I told him as we get older, we lose mobility and explosiveness. You need to train differently at 27, 28 than you did when you were 22.”

Donellan, the Islanders’ strength coach for seven years, noticed Jacobs wasn’t using his hips when he bent down to make a cut, turn a corner or take on a hit. Instead, he was using his back and his waist. Donellan explained Jacobs’ form was equivalent to trying to picking up an object off the ground without bending one’s knees versus going into what he termed a “quarter squat” to help remain balanced.

With more flexible hips, Jacobs could keep his legs moving while making a cut or lowering his pads. And after watching film of last year’s runs, Jacobs believes he would have had more than 835 yards on 224 carries (an average of only 3.7 yards per attempt) had he kept his legs moving on plays that ended with ankle tackles.

So for four days a week between the end of minicamp in mid-June through the start of training camp last Sunday, Jacobs joined teammates Justin Tuck and Kevin Boss, as well as former Giant and current Packers running back Ryan Grant, for two-hour workouts at Velocity.

Donellan worked with Jacobs on “sinking his hips” during cutting drills to increase his momentum, improve his core strength and develop the “muscle memory” of his nervous system so he would naturally remain flexible.

“He was really stiff, really tight in his hips,” Donellan said. “Through a lot of heavy strength training, he had gotten away from being athletic.”

Jacobs wanted to “make my body a little bit more firmer, more muscular, so when I do make certain turns, I have a lot of muscle to hold it.”

Jacobs is also hoping his slimmer physique will make him less prone to wearing down and decrease the pounding on his knees.

“I’m not one to make excuses, just like all year last year I went on and didn’t say anything about (the injured knee),” he said. “But when you’re not explosive enough at this position and you have something holding you back, that can definitely be a downer to what you want to do.”
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