FILM ROOM | What's Up With the Running Game?
The Giants run game has been abysmal this season since Saquon Barkley's return from a high ankle sprain.
In the five games since his injury, Barkley has totaled 234 rushing yards and is averaging 2.6 yards per carry.
Barkley told reporters Wednesday that the injury isn't an excuse for why the 2018 yards from scrimmage champ has struggled, but its hard to believe that it doesn't have some effect on his breakaway speed.
According to Pro Football Focus, Barkley's "breakaway percentage" (a number that shows which runners earn the highest and lowest % of their yardage on big plays of 15 yards or more), Barkley's current breakaway percentage is 27.9%, down from the 54% he had last season as a rookie, his 2019 percentage second on the team behind Wayne Gallman's 33.6% (albeit with Gallman having fewer runs).
But it's not just all on Barkley, who has also made some questionable decisions in the hole. It's a combination of his ankle injury and bad run plays.
The Giants have consistently run into stacked boxes this season. The defense lines up as many or more defenders than the Giants have blockers and it's leading to negative plays.
Head coach Pat Shurmur takes the heat for that and rightfully so, but some can actually be put on quarterback Daniel Jones, whether that's fair or not.
The quarterback shouldn't let a run play get off if the defense has stacked more defenders than blockers. Does Jones have that freedom to call an audible?
"Yeah, I mean, we have certain kinds of checks that are understood in practice, kind of options with the play," he said when asked. "But yeah, I think that’s kind of the extent to which we’re checking."
We don't know if that means Jones has the full freedom to audible out of plays. He does have certain "kill" plays where he gives two plays in the huddle and decides which one to run based on the defense, but it's doubtful that Shurmur is attaching that to each play call.
Below are two examples of plays that should have never been run.
A criticism against Shurmur, the team's play-caller, has been why the Giants haven't' run more outsize plays?
I don't think it's that simple. The few times during a game that the Giants run outside, it almost never gains more than a yard or two. Run blocking outside is much more difficult and really relies on tight ends to be more impactful blockers like GEorge Kittle in San Francisco.
Teams don't really expect the Giants to go outside and they still can't produce the few times a game that they do.
Barkley does deserve some of the blame for his running woes. We are not seeing him hit the hole as he did in 2018 or the first two games of 2019.
Part of this is due to the ankle, but part of it his bad decisions in the hole. There have been a handful of plays that had "what if" written on the where Barkley might have had a 20+ yard run if he had made the correct decision.
The below still image (1-yard run) and gif are examples
Barkley's pass blocking has also been poor since his return from injury, and it's hard not to blame that on the ankle. As a rookie last year, his blocking was acceptable; to have it fall off a cliff as it has since his return from injury didn't just happen overnight.
He looked especially overpowered in that especially against the Jets and Cardinals.
The other thing worth noting is that Barkley has had some uncharacteristic drops. Per Pro Football Focus, he's already dropped three balls after dropping five all of last year.
He had the big drop against Chicago which if he makes that play, there's a very good chance he runs to daylight.