“I have to be better, I have to be better for the team. We have to find a way to get the run game going. That’s how I truly believe.” That was New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley shouldering the blame for his abysmal six-yard rushing performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers this past Monday night.
However, if you happened to tune into the Steelers’ 10-point victory in Week 1, you know that Barkley was dealt a poor hand from the opening whistle, as Big Blue’s offensive line was toyed with by the Steelers’ front-seven for most of the Night. A sentiment which, whether you like it or not, happens to align very much with the likes of the NFL’s most infamous Hall of Famer, O.J. Simpson.
O.J. Simpson Calls Out Giants
The five-time Pro Bowler took to Twitter on Tuesday to come to Barkley’s defense. Simpson noted that Barkley “deserves better,” while slamming the Giants’ lack of toughness, a fault which Simpson places mostly on offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.
— O.J. Simpson (@TheRealOJ32) September 15, 2020
“He didn’t have a chance,” Simpson said of the Giants running back. “Watching that game, I can tell you I, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders. . . none of us could have gained any yards.”
Barkley notably finished Week 1’s matchup with a mere 0.4 yards per carry average. Even worse, the former No. 2 overall pick averaged negative-0.7 rushing yards before contact per attempt on the night, per Pro Football Focus.
Simpson points to coaching, namely Garrett, as the main culprit for the offense’s inability to force their will on the opposition.
“The difference between myself, Walter and Barry is that I had Lou Saban and Jim Ringo coaching, Walter had [Mike] Ditka and Barry had Wayne Fontes. Tough guys,” Simpson noted. “Guys that coached the offensive line not to do fancy blocking, but to take that [helmet] and stick that [helmet] on some [expletive].”
“I do think Jason Garrett, I felt this way at Dallas, they were always talented on offense. But I always thought despite the points that they scored, when they got into big games they underachieved because they didn’t play physical — it was all about the scheme,” Simpson said of Garrett, who New York added to their staff this offseason. “And that seems to be what they’re doing with the Giants.”
Do Giants Need to Make Scheme Changes?
Simpson continued on, pleading with the Giants to give Barkley a lead-back to help free up running room. While New York does employee a fullback, they very rarely deployed one this past Monday. Elijhaa Penny played just four offensive snaps vs. the Steelers.
“They need to give Saquon a fullback. They need to give a running start at the line and let him break off a fullback’s block or double-team blocks. Stop with this fancy scheme crap and start hitting people.”
Simpson signed off with a bang, “Giants, you’re soft! Anybody who looks at that [film] can see how soft the linemen are. They’re not driving anyone, they’re just getting in the way.”
Simpson makes more than a few strong cases in his argument. However, what he failed to touch on was the combination of talent and positional questions along the Giants’ offensive line. New York trotted out three new starters on the o-line vs. Pittsburgh, Andrew Thomas who made his NFL debut, Nick Gates who made his first career start at center and Cam Fleming at right tackle. That latter of which has served as a reserve 49 more times than he has as a starter during his NFL career.
The Giants are hoping the unit can continue to gel as they head into Week 2 faced with a daunting matchup against Khalil Mack and a stout Chicago Bears front-seven.
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