The Baltimore Ravens will have quite formidable tasks on their hands in Week 6 when they face the 4-1 New York Giants led by their Pro Bowl running back Saquon Barkley. He is one of the most dangerous and dynamic offensive weapons in the league and the focal point of his team’s offense.
The former second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft leads the league in yards from scrimmage with 676 through five games and ranks second in rushing with 533 yards. Giant’s head coach Brain Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka have devised a plethora of creative ways to get Barkley the ball in his hands and in space so ensuring that he is contained as much as possible will be the primary objective for the Ravens’ defense this week.
“He has to be public enemy No. 1 for us,” Harbaugh said in a press conference on October 12, 2022. “Saquon Barkley is definitely the main guy. You can tell; they try to get him the ball every way they can. He’s in the backfield, he’s out of the backfield, he’s a wide receiver, he’s in screens, he’s in every kind of screen there is, he has about every run. Oh, and then he plays quarterback, too. So, he’s pretty impressive.”
One of the players whose primary responsibilities will be to stop Barkley before he gets going at, behind, and past the line of scrimmage is third-year inside linebacker Patrick Queen. The former first-rounder took his lofty praise a step further and believes that the Giants’ star is at or near the best at the running back position in the entire NFL. Trying to contain him or at least limit his impact will require every defender on the field to fly to the ball full throttle on every play.
“Hats off to him, he’s probably the top back in the league,” Queen said in a press conference on October 12, 2022. “You’ve got to get all 11 hats to him, you’ve got to play with fire.”
Ravens Not Sleeping On Giants’ QB Run Game
While he declared Barkley “public enemy No. 1” for the team this week, Harbaugh also said that New York’s fourth-year signal-caller is “public enemy No. 1A” with the way he can gash a defense with his dynamic rushing ability as well. Jones ranks second on the team in rushing attempts (41), yards (230), and touchdowns (two) and leads the Giants in yards per carry among players with at least 14 carries according to Pro Football Reference.
“The quarterback does a really good job running, so they put a lot of pressure on us,” defensive end Calais Campbell said in a press conference on October 12, 2022. “We have to be very, very stout in the run game and in our gameplan, making sure that [there are] 11 hats to the ball.”
The Ravens’ defense has allowed a rushing touchdown to the opposing team’s quarterback in each of their last three games. If they aren’t careful and maintain their rush lanes to prevent Jones from escaping the pocket on scrambles and getting to the second and third level on designed runs or zone reads, that streak could be in jeopardy of getting extended.
Geno Stone Always Feels Like A Starter
The third-year safety is another player on the Ravens’ defense that will be tasked with limiting Barkley as a runner and pass catcher as well as Jones as both a runner and passer in this matchup.
He is slated to take over the starting free safety role in place of veteran Marcus Williams who was placed on injured reserve earlier this week and will miss “significant” time with a dislocated wrist he suffered in the team’s Week 5 win over their division rival Cincinnati Bengals.
Stone has only made one career star in his career through his first two seasons and prior to Williams’ injury, was playing limited snaps on defense to start the 2022 season. Nevertheless, he prepares each week as if he’s going to start so that when his number in called upon, he’ll be ready and in the right mindset.
“I feel like any time I step onto the field, I have the ability to show I’m a starter in this league,” Stone told reporters in the locker room on October 12, 2022. “I always prepare to be a starter every week.”
He sits next to starting strong safety Chuck Clark in meetings so that he can learn as much as he can from someone who not too long ago found himself in a similar position. In 2019 after former Ravens veteran defensive back Tony Jefferson suffered a torn ACL in Week 4 of that season, Clark seized the golden opportunity for extensive playing time to springboard his career and earn a starting role.
He performed so well that the team decided to move on from Jefferson the following offseason and hasn’t looked back ever since. Even after the Ravens drafted the top safety prospect in this year’s draft, Kyle Hamilton, in the first round, Clark still hasn’t relinquished his starting role.
While no one is expecting Stone to make Williams expendable a year after the Ravens gave him a huge contract in free agency for five years and $70 million, his career arc is mirroring Clarks almost identically. They were both late-round picks in their respective drafts and they both found themselves in a prime position to prove themselves due to an unfortunate injury suffered by a player high than them on the depth chart.
“I’ve been there before. I know where he’s at,” Clark said in a recent appearance on ‘The Lounge’ podcast. “It’s like, ‘Wait till I get my opportunity. I’m going to take it and run with it.’ I know I don’t have to say too much to him. He’s going to be locked in for sure.”
Even though he is a relatively unknown commodity around the league, Stone has proved he can make plays, has a nose for the ball, and possesses great instincts. He has displayed these traits on a regular basis in practice, throughout the preseason the past two years, and in limited regular season action.
“He’s always around the ball,” Clark said. “We’ve seen him do it in training camp, we’ve seen him do it OTAs, we’ve seen him do it in games before. It’s just time to go out there and prove it to everybody else.”