One big run in the fourth quarter gave a lift to what was an otherwise difficult afternoon for Saquon Barkley, the New York Giants rookie running back finishing with a solid day statistically in his NFL debut. The Giants were on the wrong side of a 20-15 home loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday afternoon, but Barkley stood out as a rare positive on offense.
But on Barkley’s big fourth-quarter run he got a little help from one of his wide receivers, an overlooked moment in what was the biggest play of the day.
Sterling Shepard held up Jaguars defensive back A.J. Bouye, freeing up the right lane for Barkley. On the play, Barkley cut back to the right side after finding little room to run there, evading two tacklers and then running behind Shepard down the field, this after the Giants wide receiver set the edge very well.
From there, Barkley broke one final tackle before going into full sprint mode for the touchdown.
“Yeah, he made a heck of a block. We came back to the sideline and he said ‘I got you, two-six’, and he made a heck of a block,” Barkley said after the game.
“The o-line made a heck of a block, the tight end made a heck of a block, and when you think about it, on those long runs, the only thing you really see on the highlights is the running back making a play or the wide receiver making a play, but it’s the little things, the little blocks. If Shep doesn’t make that block and if Evan [Ingram] doesn’t make that block, that’s not a touchdown. You have to give credit to those guys.”
Barkley finished with 106 rushing yards on 18 carries. However, take away that one big run and it is clear to see that the Giants struggled to get him space to run.
On his other 17 rushing attempts, he managed just 38 yards. He often got swarmed in the backfield or at the line before he could begin his move.
For three quarters, Barkley didn’t find traction, getting very little help from an offensive line that was clearly overmatched. The Jaguars did a good job of bottling things up, getting pressure from the edges and staying disciplined in their gap assignments.
It made for a frustrating afternoon for Barkley, who only got free once down the sideline early in the fourth quarter, that long touchdown run which gave the Giants a brief glimmer of hope in a game where they struggled to move the ball.
Overall, the line as a whole struggled, giving quarterback Eli Manning very little time in the pocket to throw.
The group remains a work in progress, but the trickle-down effect is that Barkley didn’t have clear running lanes, even though he finally found some space in the fourth quarter where he could bounce a run outside.
“We battled a really good defense. You’re looking at a top-10 defense and we battled them and I thought they fought throughout the game,” Giants head coach Pat Shurmur said. “We can probably all point to individual bad plays by everyone, me included, so I feel like they battled and we’ve just got to go back and correct the mistakes that maybe showed up and get ready to play Dallas.”