Saquon Barkley must be the man to carry the load for the New York Giants in their Week 5 matchup with the Panthers.
The NFL has become a passing league. However, there are still games where putting the ball on the ground is an effective way to win.
The New York Giants are in that position entering their Week 5 battle with the Carolina Panthers. The team’s offense couldn’t get going against the Saints cover two scheme, in part due to the fact that Saquon Barkley got only 10 carries, meaning the Saints never had to stack the box against him.
That can’t happen against the Panthers, and Barkley seems to know it. He told CBS Sports’ Dan Schneier that he thinks the team should run more against high zone schemes.
“When teams play a soft-zone coverage, that’s when we have to run the ball. When they drop deep like that, I feel like that’s disrespectful”
Giants coach Pat Shurmur has an opportunity to take Barkley’s advice and cram a running game down the throats of a defense that has allowed 110 yards per game on the ground.
The Giants can expect to see a lot of zone defense this week. Panthers coach Ron Rivera loves to play zone (he led the league in zone defensive reads last season per Pro Football Focus via Twitter). While the Panthers have a new defensive coordinator, Rivera is a defensive coach and his defense has kept much of the same look.
#Panthers led the NFL in zone coverage schemes last season (72.5%). Here's @PFF_Gordon with the breakdown. ⬇️https://t.co/yZN83iSTUn pic.twitter.com/LXqU4uBHfe
— PFF CAR Panthers (@PFF_Panthers) June 20, 2018
Rivera will see how the Saints used zone defense to stop the Giants when they played them last week, and will no doubt look to follow the same path. By playing zone, Rivera will be able to protect his cornerbacks.
The Panthers’ starting cornerbacks are James Bradberry and Donte Jackson. Neither of them are guys you want to match up against Odell Beckham Jr. for an entire game. Beckham can and has produced against top corners in the league (including putting up six catches for 86 yards against Jalen Ramsey, arguably the best corner in the league).
Beckham would feast against the Panthers cornerbacks in man coverage. Rivera will want to play zone to stop him. As good as Barkley is, Beckham Jr. is still the player defenses key in on stopping.
Since the Panthers will want to shade help towards Beckham Jr. and keep help over the top to prevent the Giants from getting a vertical passing game going, they will have fewer defenders in the box. That’s why the Giants will need to lean on Barkley.
Barkley is a playmaker, as he showed on his first career touchdown run. Given room in the box, he’ll break some big runs. The Giants need to let him tote the rock early and often, and they need to be patient.
The Panthers have Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson leading their linebacker group. They’ll be able to bottle up Barkley from time to time. But it won’t be every play.
Barkley will break big plays against a defense playing to stop the pass, which will eventually force the Panthers to step up and load the box to contain him. That will free up the Giants to use play action to take shots downfield, something they’ve failed to do this season. When your pass protection is weak, using the running game to set up the passing game is a must.
Pat Shurmur said he wants to give Barkley more carries. Doing so this week is the key to victory for a Giants team desperately trying to hang in the division race.