Running the ball has been the route to success for the New York Giants this season. When it’s worked, the Giants have won games. When it hasn’t Big Blue has suffered defeat, like in Week 11’s surprising and disappointing 31-18 loss to the Detroit Lions.
The Lions held Saquon Barkley, the NFL’s second-leading rusher, to just 22 yards on 15 carries. Without No. 26 ripping off big gains, the Giants were static and one-dimensional on offense.
It didn’t help Matt Breida was unable to pick up the slack. The former San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills runner isn’t used on early downs, but one recently released veteran could spell Barkley and keep him free from the extra contact he’s facing.
Giants Need to Get Barkley Some Help
Melvin Gordon III is no longer a member of the Denver Broncos, after the AFC West franchise severed ties following a 22-16 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. The news was confirmed on Monday, November 21 by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, who cited ball security issues as the main motivation for the decision:
Gordon’s 29, but he’s been a productive veteran, and the Giants have already been named as a potential landing spot by Pro Football Network’s Ben Rolfe: “Gordon would give them a second veteran option that they could lean on in crucial moments. Gordon doesn’t have Barkley’s upside, but he is a more durable early-down option than Matt Breida would likely be.”
The reference to Breida is telling because the short-term pickup this offseason has averaged just 3.3 yards on only 32 carries. It’s been a light workload for a player who topped 100 carries three times during his stint with the Niners.
Breida’s role with the Giants is different. He’s being deployed on third downs and used at other spots, even fullback in some looks, or like taking a jet sweep to convert 4th-and-1 against the Lions.
Breida did score his first Giants touchdown against Detroit, but he’s not providing enough of a threat to make defenses worry about somebody other than Barkley.
Taking a few less hits is something Barkley needs, according to Rolfe: “Barkley is averaging more yards before contact per rush this year than at any other point in his career (2.5).”
Giants’ Run Game Needs a Different Look
Teams know stopping Barkley is the key to stifling the Giants, so head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka need to show defenses a new wrinkle. It’s unlikely to come from a pedestrian passing game that’s averaging just 6.9 yards per attempt and has mustered 1,948 yards, the fourth-fewest in the league.
Instead, the Giants need another viable rushing threat. Gordon fits the bill thanks to a pair of Pro-Bowl berths and a career average of 4.1 yards and 55 rushing touchdowns. He’s found pay-dirt twice this season, despite coughing up five fumbles and losing two.
What Gordon offers is a breakaway threat and a legitimate nose for the end zone. Those qualities would fit alongside Barkley in the type of ‘Pony’ backfield teams like the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers have used effectively this season, per PFN’s Dalton Miller.
The Giants need a new strategy to keep rushing lanes open for Barkley after the Lions wrecked ’11’ personnel, according to Bobby Skinner of Talkin’ Giants:
Putting Gordon next to Barkley would prevent defenses from teeing off on the latter. It might also let Daboll and Kafka split the second-overall pick from 2018 out as a receiver more often.
That would be an effective ploy if defenses are getting into the backfield as often as the Lions did, per Patricia Traina of Giants Country: “Detroit dropped Barkley, whose longest run of the day went for four yards, for zero or negative yardage on five of his carries.”
Along with Breida, Gordon would give the Giants a proven, more dynamic alternative to Barkley when the staple Daboll and Kafka gameplan isn’t working.