Wide Right Podcast 51
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The New York Giants run game is putrid. Luckily, everything could fall into place this Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.

I understand that it’s a passing league. I understand the speed of the game has increased to the point where the running back position may be losing some value.

But more and more people need to realize that a consistent and efficient run game still stands as a significant key to a successful and creative offense, an advantage some teams hold over others.

Of the top 10 rushing teams in the league, seven enter Week 5 with winning records, proving that running the football isn’t as irrelevant as some may believe.

But nowhere near that top 10 list is the New York Giants, sitting as the second-worst rushing team in the league with an average of 76.5 yards per contest. No Saquon Barkley (out with a torn ACL) has really taken a toll on an offense that’s additionally last in scoring and tied for last in total yards per game.

That area of the game somewhat improved for the Giants against the Rams, but it carries the opportunity to really find a necessary spark this weekend against the Dallas Cowboys.

There’s a decisive variable to the overall equation, and it’s the fact that Dallas sports a putrid front-seven when it comes to stopping the run. You can look at it at face value and state the Cowboys employ the second-worst rushing defense with an average of 172.5 yards allowed per game, but let’s take a bit deeper of a look.

The great ESPN Analytics team measures a statistic titled “run stop win rate.”

Per ESPN, “a defender can earn a win by doing any of the following: beating his blocker so he’s in better position to stop the runner; disrupting the pocket or running lane by pushing his blocker backwards; containing the runner such that he must adjust his running lane; or recording a tackle within three yards of the line of scrimmage. If a defender earns a run stop win, his blocker earns a loss, and vice versa.”

Of the 76 interior defensive linemen in which run stop win rate is currently measured, the Cowboys possess three of the bottom five players. Dontari Poe and Antwaun Woods respectively stand at No. 72 and 73. Tyrone Crawford, meanwhile, is dead last in regard to this specific metric.

The Giants must overwhelm a struggling run-stopping front seven like this, and I’m not talking just running the ball consistently. I mean utilizing a multitude of backs and throwing different things at the opponent within the run game in order to ultimately confuse and tire out Dallas’ unit.

That’s where a running back committee becomes beneficial, something the Giants have needed to implement and will continue to implement amid the absence of Barkley. Wayne Gallman must find reps. Devonta Freeman needs to sport that versatility and elusiveness. The larger-framed Elijhaa Penny must enter the game on short-yardage downs.

Creativity is crucial here, and it’s an adjective Jason Garrett and the Giants offense have yet to discover thus far. The ability to be spontaneous within the run game will force the Dallas defense to crumble even more than it’s had in 2020 (30th in total defense and last in scoring).

Effectively utilizing that offensive aspect would additionally be beneficial for Daniel Jones. Listen, I know he’s struggled, but Giants fans can’t bag him right away, and alternatively, need to consider the support around him (or lack thereof). For any NFL quarterback (let alone a 23-year-old quarterback in his second season), it’s virtually impossible to operate with a below-average offensive line, a nearly non-existent run game, and no receiving options that possess noteworthy talent.

Having said that, even just a mildly successful run game would take some pressure off of Jones, which would likely, in turn, limit the mistakes and turnovers that have killed a number of Giants offensive drives already this season.

And when you look at the upcoming schedule, you begin to realize numerous teams the Giants still need to face thrive in defending the run. The Eagles (who Big Blue plays twice), Buccaneers, Seahawks, Browns, and Ravens all succeed in that facet.

If a spark is going to be discovered within the run game, it needs to be located now. And given how the Cowboys have fared, there’s no better time for the Giants to get the job done than on Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium.

Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.