The New York Giants got off to a 6-1 start and the backbone behind that was Saquon Barkley. He had rushed for 726 yards, averaging 103.7 yards a game. Over the last five, in which New York went an odd 1-3-1, Barkley rushed for 329 yards, averaging 65.8 yards a game.
The Eagles are coming off an incredible performance last week against Tennessee’s Derrick Henry. They never let the powerback get going. He was held to 30 yards on 11 carries, averaging a mere 2.7 yards a carry. Slow-footed Titans’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill outrushed Henry 34 yards to 30. And, the Eagles did not have to alter their defensive scheme that much to do it.There is an obvious correlation here.
Stop Barkley, and you stop the Giants.
Will Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon deploy the same scheme as he did in stopping Henry?
“Unique player, Saquon [Barkley],” Gannon said. “Obviously, he got picked that high for a reason. He can run it; he can catch it; they split him out wide; they throw it to him; they hand it off to him, jet sweeps, tosses, inside runs; he lines up as a receiver; he lines up as the quarterback.
“He has a very unique skill set. He’s explosive. He’s big. He’s strong. He can hit home runs. He can break tackles. We’re going to have to be on it.
He looks like the premier back that he is right now on tape this year.”
The Eagles had issues last week when Tannehill scrambled. Giants’ quarterback Daniel Jones is far better athlete and far more willing runner than Tannehill.
Jones has caused problems for the Eagles in the past.
“Yeah, [Giants Head Coach] Brian Daboll and [Giants Offensive Coordinator] Mike Kafka know what they’re doing,” Gannon said. “[Giants Offensive Line coach] Bobby Johnson is the O-line coach; I was with Bobby for a little bit, and he knows what he’s doing.
“They know how to use, to maximize their quarterback skill set in a way that makes it very challenging for the defense because it challenges your rules and your structures, and they find their match-ups, their one-on-one match-ups because of the quarterback skill set. So, we’ve got a big-time challenge ahead of us, and we’ve got to be on it. It’s a game where you can’t just line up and play your stuff, or you will get gashed. We’ve got a big-time challenge ahead of us.”
Did Gannon learn anything adjusting to Tannehill’s scrambles that he could apply against the Jones?
“We use some tools when we need to use some tools, and a lot of times you don’t know when those plays are going to come up,” Gannon said, “but that’s just everyone kind of doing their job the correct way and knowing that that quarterback has that in his skill set and you’ve got to play accordingly by situation, by down and distance, by the call. We have to be very aware of that’s part of his game that that’s one of the main ways that they move the ball down the field.
“Just like any key to victory, we have to be very aware of that’s how they’re playing good offense. One of the pieces why they play good offense, and we have to be able to combat it.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written features for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, and his breaking story on Carson Wentz for PhillyVoice on January 21, 2019. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.