No one said it would be easy. But then again, if it was easy anyone could do it. The NFL is full of anomalies; things that can’t be explained or difficult to control. One of these anomalies is Saquon Barkley. The man from Penn State has been a fantasy and reality monster since he entered the league last year. The 233-pounder has hit speeds of 21 and 21.76 miles per hour 3 times already this year. Last year, he averaged 5.0 yards a carry as a rookie, insuring his validity as the rookie of the Year.
With the recent changes to the Giants roster, the offense was suffering under Eli Manning. But now, recent news has informed the NFL world that Daniel Jones will make his first NFL start this Sunday; making the task of slowing down Barkley even more difficult. Not only is he an elite running back, but he also has great hands.
In 2018, Barkley caught an astonishing 91 receptions off of 121 targets. Although he only had 721 yards receiving, he averaged nearly eight yards a grab. His longest reception was 57 yards, and he accounted for 30 first downs, while only grabbing four touchdowns in this span. He is a dual-threat like no one has seen before aside from Christian McCaffrey.
Lets look at the numbers:
In 16 games, Barkley had 1,307 yards rushing for an average of 81.6 yards.
721 yards in 16 games played at 45 yards a click. That’s a total of 126 yards a game.
This season, in only two games, he has amassed 274 yards from scrimmage (227 yards rushing, 47 yards receiving). However, he only has one touchdown under his belt so far. That’s prime production for any team in the NFL. He is a one-man army. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be contained. Tampa Bay has been given the assignment of slowing down Barkley, it’ll be nearly impossible to stop him.
Keys To The Game
Tampa Bay’s linebackers must make it a priority to crowd the line of scrimmage. They cannot allow open gaps and spaces for Barkley to get up to speed. Outside linebackers have to be disciplined and keep him inside the tackles. Jet sweeps and scats must be noticed from the defensive line and must be crashed upon once indicated. The corners, have to be aware of the sidelines and field situation. If this premiere back were to get loose and bounce outside to the sidelines, the Buccaneer corners and safeties are undersized. Meaning, if a one-on-one matchup to save a touchdown were to take place, Barkley would have the advantage by more than just percentage points.
Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh have to give an all-star performance to apply pressure to the New York Giants offensive line. By taking away run gaps, it subtracts possibilities for different directions for him to run, therefore limiting his explosiveness. If there was ever a time for Suh and Vea to get the proper respect they deserve, it would be this Sunday in the Tampa heat of Raymond James Stadium.
The real key matchups to obtain victory against the Giants lies in the linebacking corps. They must find a way to control Evan Engram on play-action passes, frustrate Daniel Jones on his first NFL start, and try to wrangle in the monster known as Saquon Barkley. Tackling will be of a premium. And more than likely Tampa will be without Devin White for this matchup. Lavonte David and Carl Nassib have to find a way to gang tackle, apply pressure, and go heads up with the premier back of the NFC East.
A victory against another NFC opponent would lighten the burden on Bruce Arians, the stereotypes held against Jameis Winston and the mythology of recent history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It is truly time for the Buccaneers to wreak havoc on Sunday.