Week 1 of training camp has Ahmad Bradshaw pushing for job as No. 1 halfback

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The starting job in the New York Giants' backfield is up for grabs.

Brandon Jacobs no longer is a lock to get the first call. The big guy is being pushed by his training camp roommate, and Ahmad Bradshaw seems to have pulled ahead.

Throughout the first week of camp at the University of Albany, Bradshaw has been the one getting the first carry in practice.

While coach Tom Coughlin downplays the significance of lining up with the first team, it hints that the days of Jacobs wearing down defenses early to set up Bradshaw running late might be changing. Now Bradshaw may be tiring opponents early so Jacobs can run them over later.

Bradshaw darted around the question of whether his role was changing.

"I'm expecting a lot more from the offense, and I'm expecting to help out a lot," he said between practices on Saturday.

However, it's clear that Bradshaw is going to have a bigger role if he can stay healthy, which is a big if.

The fourth-year pro had to have cracked bones in both of his feet and bone spurs an ankle surgically repaired after last season. The pain so bad that Bradshaw barely practiced in 2009.

Still, he had career highs of 163 carries for 778 yards rushing and a team-high seven rushing touchdowns.

In a season in which the Giants' running game failed to produce big gains, he had 20 rushes of 10 yards or more, including 11 of the top 15 gains on the ground.

And again, that was without practicing much.

"In this league, you need a lot of repetition," Bradshaw said. "You need to get a feel for the game the whole week. The feel for the different teams that we play and that we rep against in practice. Not practicing hurts more than it can help."

Despite the offseason surgeries, Bradshaw is practicing twice a day. He does a lot of icing between workouts and has new insoles for his shoes.

"I feel great about it," Bradshaw said. "I feel 100 percent compared to last year."

Jacobs led the Giants in rushing last season with 835 yards on 224 carries, marking the first time in three seasons that he failed to gain 1,000 yards. His five rushing touchdowns were 10 less than in 2008.

What was more troubling was his yards per carry. He averaged 5.0 yards in the previous two seasons and saw his average dip to 3.7 last year.

Jacobs played all last season with a troublesome right knee. He eventually missed the final game and had surgery to repair it in the offseason.

"Brandon looks good," Coughlin said. "He's running well, he goes out there every day and he can work and that's a big plus. He looks fast."

Jacobs has not attended lunch in the opening week of camp and has not been available for comment. He showed up on Saturday, but he refused to talk because his family was visiting.

Coughlin then cautioned the media against making too much of who gets the first carry.

"You guys are all hung up on that stuff," he said. "All I want are healthy bodies and depth. They'll be utilized and as you know, there are a lot of games to play."

Bradshaw added that the running back are all looking to make amends after a season in which the Giants went from the NFL's top rushing team to an average one.

"We have some hunger in our room," Bradshaw said. "Me and Brandon are roommates, and we talk everyday about how hungry we are and how excited we are to be running this team."

The Giants also have depth.

Andre Brown, who missed all of his rookie season with an Achilles' tendon injury, is back and looking good. D.J. Ware also has shown flashes in camp and fullback Madison Hedgecock has recovered from a shoulder injury that limited his effectiveness as a lead blocker.

Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said Coughlin has stressed that he wants a return to the team's roots, so running the ball is a must.

"If we can get the running game going and get it back to close to where it was and continue to grow in the passing game, we'll be all set," Gilbride said.

With Bradshaw and Jacobs pushing each other, the Giants have a chance to revive the running attack, no matter who gets the first call.