Giants Path to Victory is Narrow but Exists
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The New York Giants don't do much well these days but a 2-3 start for the reigning Super Bowl champions has Philadelphia realizing that everyone in the NFL possesses a path to victory.
The Giants' path is narrower than most on game days and usually emanates from their two-star playmakers: receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and running back Saquon Barkley.
The Eagles have dealt with OBJ in the past of course and Thursday night will mark the first time that one of the NFL's top run defenses will see Barkley, the former Penn State star who was the No. 2 overall pick back in April's draft.
Through five professional games, Barkley has shown flashes of being the next great three-down back, leading the Giants in rushing with 308 yards on 71 carries with three touchdowns, including a 68-yard home run, and trailing only Beckham when it comes to catching the football, snaring 31 receptions and adding another two TDs, including a 57-yarder.
If Barkley keeps up his current production you're talking about a rookie season with nearly 1,000 yards rushing, 99 receptions and 16 TDs.
"I haven't seen a running back like that in a long time," Eagles veteran defensive lineman Michael Bennett admitted to reporters on Tuesday.
The real impressive part came when Bennett tried to explain Barkley's skill set, re-imagining him as a combination of the best traits of Marshawn Lynch, LeSean McCoy, and Jamaal Charles.
"I think he reminds me of a couple running backs. He has, like, shiftiness and quick feet like Marshawn Lynch and balance like LeSean McCoy. But then he also has speed like Jamaal Charles," Bennett said. "He's really a great combination as a running back."
The Giants are improved on the offensive line from 2017 but are still not clicking at a high level by any means so much of Barkey's production comes from making something out of nothing.
Currently, the Eagles are ranked second in the NFL, allowing just 66.2 rushing yards per game, but Barkley's ability to beat you in multiple ways has defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz burning the midnight oil during a short week.
"He's a guy that can get two yards, three yards, four yards, and then all of a sudden break one for 38 or 60 or whatever he can do," Schwartz said. "He's a big-play guy."
And Schwartz is coming off a game where the Vikings' receiving duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs did plenty of damage with YAC, yards after catch.
So, if you are searching for the Giants' path for victory over the Eagles, it starts with Eli Manning getting the football out of his hands quickly and feeding OBJ and Barkley.
"Yeah, I think you're right on it. It's the yards after the catch," Schwartz said when asked by 973espn.com about how teams are attacking the Philadelphia defense. "The quick throws aren't the things that get you. When you look back at the Vikings it wasn't that they were getting those catches. A lot of times they were catching the ball for a one-yard gain, zero-yard gain when they were throwing the ball out there.
"It's the run after the catch. It's limiting that. There is some scheme stuff I can help those guys [his secondary] with. ... [the Giants] have some guys that can run after the catch, Odell Beckham, Jr. obviously, and Barkley. ... He catches lots of short passes out of the backfield. Looks a little different than the wideouts, but he catches short passes and screens and stuff like that. He has the ability to break it if we're not 100 percent where we're supposed to be."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen