Do NOT Re-sign Barkley

See the picture above? It is not Saquon Barkley. It is someone you have never heard of. His name is Isiah Pacheco. He is the reason you cannot re-sign Barkley. Pacheco is the punchline to this joke of paying RB, and I save the best for last.

The unit I like the most this season is ironically the least important unit on the entire roster- running back. I am super bullish on Saquon Barkley here in 2022. Breida and Brightwell are good depth.

UltimateNYG, 9/10/22 Season Preview

Yah, no one, least of all me, saw 5-1. But the call on Barkley’s stupendous comeback speaks for itself. Saquon Barkley is back and he is leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage. He is a fantasy owner’s dream. But he will be a cap nightmare.

The NFL General Manager does have a fantasy component to it. He has to allocate cap dollars the same way a fantasy drafter needs to distribute resources to players who will deliver points over cost. So what is great for the Giants in 2022 is going to be bad for ANYONE who signs Barkley to his next contract in 2023. You are not going to get #1 in the NFL yards. He will invariably get hurt. Barkley is healthy this year. Yet all we have to do is go back to last game, watching Barkley grimacing in pain in between plays against the Ravens due to a banged up shoulder, to be reminded that

RUNNING BACK GETS INJURED

We have talked about this before. In February 2020 we wrote the Running Back Manifesto. I have requoted it on Twitter, and it literally stops the debate in its tracks. The truth is hard to swallow. Yet the facts are incontrovertible.

Let’s supplement one of the many arguments since the writing, that RB scraps helps you win Super Bowls. (1) Tampa Bay won the next Super Bowl with a former Round 1 pick who was essentially a wasted pick at Jacksonville, overdrafted at 1.04 overall and discarded for literally zero by the Jaguars on the eve of his 4th season in the NFL despite two good seasons in Year 1 and Year 3. Year 2 he got hurt (sound familiar?). The Jags declined his 5th year option (another tell). And no one would trade anything for Fournette, so he was released to waivers, with a $6M cap hit on a stupid rookie-1.04-overall-RB contract (sound familiar2?). Tampa Bay picked him for next to NOTHING, paid him $2M, and won the Super Bowl with him. Textbook.

(2) Los Angeles won last year’s Super Bowl. In the final 3 playoff games, the Rams ran 82 times for 186 yards en route to a title. Yucch. Stafford and Super Bowl MVP WR Cooper Kupp (Round 3 gem) carried the offense. The patchwork RB corp of Sony Michel (another discarded late R1 pick), Cam Akers (back from injury) and Darrell Henderson got them through. Akers was a RB we liked out of the Draft (Wonder had him ranked 33rd on his board, taken 52nd overall) but his return from an Achilles injury (RB, injury, are you seeing a pattern yet?) had him at less than optimal output.

It is time to finish the argument with the whole reason for the post in the first place, Isiah Pacheco. We wake up this morning to this tweet:

Are you kidding me? The blueprint for the modern 21st Century Offense, the Kansas City Chiefs, is starting a skill player taken in Round 7, 251st overall?! Welcome to the world of the NFL Running Back in 2022. When given 31 snaps thus far, he is averaging 4.8 yards per rush. More importantly, he can block… well enough for a rookie to start. Pacheco’s cap hit is $0.7M. I am surprised it is that large, but that only tells me the cost of re-signing Barkley is going to be ginormous, ~20X near $15M per yr, if some NFL team is stupid enough to pay that. The problem for these second RB contracts is they are a cap suck. Elliot is 6 yrs $90M. McCaffrey is 4 yrs $64M (and Carolina got out of that quickly enough). The takeaway is simple- every dollar you blow at this position, you have less to pay the Left Tackles, the Edge Rushers and the Quarterbacks. You can get 80-90% of Barkley for 10-20-30% of the cost. Aren’t the Breidas ($1M cap hit) and Brightwells ($0.7M) in your own backyard proving that? Isn’t Andy Reid, the coach of one of the top 3 contenders this year, proving that?

Is Barkley part of the future? No. I believe Schoen will be smart enough to not blow cap on RB by resigning him. If you could get Barkley for a good price (single digit millions, like 6-7M, sorry, not sorry) after a really good 2022 campaign, I’d say yes. But I’m betting he’s going to attract enough free agent interest elsewhere (despite his injury history) to make that impossible. Schoen, unlike Gettleman, will not bite. Discipline.

UltimateNYG, 9/10/22 Season Preview

So, be careful what you wish for, Giants fans. We love Saquon. Team player, great teammate, great ambassador for the game, leader, face of the franchise. If you want a title, it is going to be harder to do it with him than without him. Running back is plug and play. This is not your father’s NFL.

NYG 24 BAL 20

The word resiliency is oft used, but never more appropriate for this 2022 NY Giants football team. Another win today has even the biggest believers stunned in pure elated joy.

Week 1: Consider that the Giants find themselves down 13-0 to Tennessee going into the 2nd half. Trailing 20-13, they win by driving 73 yards and making the 2 point conversion, 21-20 with 1:06 left in the game. The Titans would miss a 47 yard FG. NYG never had a lead until their last drive.

Week 2: Versus Carolina, in the first 6 possessions, the Giants amassed 4, 25, 8, 4, 9, and -1 yards for a whopping 49 total yards. Because of 2 turnovers and Defense, the Giants still found themselves in contention at only a 13-6 deficit. They would come from behind again, winning 19-16.

Week 3: Against Dallas they would come back to earth and lose 23-16.

Week 4: The Bears are a particularly weak team. The Giants would lead most of the game and win 20-12.

Week 5: We chronicled a marvelous come from behind win vs heavily favored GB last week. Down 17-3 and 20-10, the Giants collected their third win by retracing a second half deficit. This one was special- 17 unanswered.

Week 6: Enter Baltimore. 5.5 point favorites versus Giants. The Packer win is making believers out of loyal fans but we are nonetheless cautious about a very good Ravens team who went toe to toe with Buffalo, arguably the owners of the pole position to win the AFC.

If I told you that Baltimore would outgain the Giants nearly 2:1, with 406 yds to 238 yds and yet the Giants won the game, you’d be as shocked at a win as you would be at 5-1. Yet this is the 2022 Cinderella season.

The Giants, with 13 minutes remaining in Q4, find themselves down 20-10 again after an Andrews TD. Follow the highlights from the 10:00 minute mark. Time for some more Giants magic. They drive down the field with 12 plays and two third down conversions, hitting Bellinger (…hello another TE…) in the red zone.

The Ravens would get the ball back with a 20-17 lead, but the game would get wild. A dropped shotgun snap sends the ball past Lamar Jackson, who desperately throws a floater which is picked off by Julian Love for the Giants first INT of the season. He would return the ball 27 yards to the BAL 13.

The Giants were aided throughout the game by 10 penalties for 74 yards. Many of them were at big moments. Slayton would be held in the end zone to negate an INT and set up first and Goal from the 1; Barkley put the Giants ahead for the first time in the game.

On the final BAL drive with less than 2 minutes left, rookie Round 1 pick Kayvon Thibodeaux would sack strip Jackson and Leonard Williams would fall on the loose ball. Barkley iced the game by brilliantly running for a first down and then taking a knee before going into the end zone. Sorry fantasy owners, Giants fans were oozing with pride at how well coached this team is to run out the clock instead of take the points. (If CLE does that vs NYJ, NYJ lose.)

So how do the Giants pull off the win when they are outgained nearly 2:1 in yardage? 2 huge turnovers, 10 Penalties on the Ravens, a kickoff return to the 48 yard line, Tucker hitting the goal post, the Giants stopping the Ravens at the 5 yard line.

I need to single out Sexy Dexy. Dexter Lawrence is becoming a menace. Another sack, a deflected ball, and 2 QB hits. One was a hurry on 3rd down which caused the end of a BAL possession. 4 sacks for an Interior DLman who is already a run stuffer is getting Lawrence recognition around the NFL. Last week Aaron Rodgers singled him out. It may even get gaudier for the DT when/if Ojulari + Thib come on later this year.

Another notable is the debut of rookie WR Wan’dale Robinson. He made his presence felt on the drive which brought the score from 20-10 to 20–17. He moved the sticks on a 3rd down conversion and scored the TD on pass/YAC inside the red zone. Kafka is going to leverage the Round 2 pick often in this Offense.

The Giants have now won 4 games after trailing in the second half by 13, 7, 10, and 10 points. It’s really fun to watch a young team with new coaches play with such confidence.

The Giants and Jets have more wins combined at October 16th than they had all of last season. They each have more wins than the Tampa Bay Bucs, the Baltimore Ravens, the Green Bay Packers, the LA Rams, and the SF 49ers. The NFL. Not For Long. Thank you Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll for making all of us believers in Giants football again.

NYG 27 GB 22

ECSTATIC! Pinch me. The Giants beat the heavily favored Packers.

There are so many amazing things that happened in this game that I can’t wait to discuss; I am practically at a loss for where to start. But we can try by looking at the setup of this game before anyone took the field.

The Giants were 9-10 point underdogs. The moneyline for this game reflected a 22% chance of the Giants winning the game. I frankly did not give the Giants a chance of winning, and even said so on Twitter when I predicted earlier in the week that they’d be 4-4 after the next 4 games. That was not a knock on the Giants, who were overachievers, but merely a lack of respect for Tannehill, Mayfield, Rush and Fields compared to playing the likes of Aaron Rodgers.

And then Leonard Williams, who was questionable all week, was declared inactive for the game. How much more can one injury-riddled team take? At that point, I was just hoping the Giants would be competitive enough to just build on something in a rebuilding year.

Here is the 13 minute set of highlights to the game. We are going to note a lot of plays in the discussion below marked with a bold timestamp which is referenced to the video.

The Giants got out of the blocks slowly. Rodgers drove the Packers, but a well timed and well schemed blitz (0:27) with S Dane Belton forced a FG.

Note how Jones and Barkley had trouble early with swing/screen passes.

0:46.

1:08.

2:51.

Regular readers to this blog know that one of my pet peeves is the inability of this team to execute a simple screen pass. Here, we see it end 3 consecutive possessions. Thankfully by the 3rd possession, the Giants started working Slayton into the game with play action. People like Dan Schneier and myself have been yelling from the mountaintops to get play action/Slayton going. When you do not send Toney, Golladay and Robinson to London, for heaven’s sake why are you not throwing the ball to the only WR option who can stretch the field and take pressure off of Barkley’s box? In the third possession when the Offense got things going, it was a play action fake to Barkley at 2:21 that found Jones hitting Slayton for 26 yards. Oxygen. From this play forward, the Giants Offense began finding rhythm.

What is important with this playcall is what has been important all season long- ADJUSTMENTS. It took Kafka 2 possessions to figure out that Barkley Barkley Barkley was not going to work. Typically it would take Giants Offensive Coordinators at least a half a season to tweak the playcalling. Gilbride (as only one example.. Shula and Garrett were worse) would finally figure out he needed to use a TE/screen pass after getting clobbered behind a bad Offensive Line for many games, then have more balance with a single win, only to revert thereafter and then shocking (not) back to losses. This coaching staff shortens the cycle of adjustments from games to possessions. And we are seeing this every single game this season, which gives us much more confidence in the sustainability of this success.

Play action continued to get the job done (2:39), moving the sticks, and getting the Giants on the board, trailing 10-3.

Martindale’s defense has been bend-don’t-break all season. Defenders know their assignments. They make the tackles. They are tough in the red zone. It’s my read that if/when personnel is upgraded, they’ll “bend” even less. That’s why I keep referring to this year as a rebuild. The on-the-job training of rookies and not-ready-for-prime time players is making this team better each week. Essentially, good coaches like Martindale are accelerating this process.

I want to take pause from the game at 4:23 to note the TD from Mercedes Lewis. An interesting factoid came up that this NY Giants blogger is not going to let go unmentioned. You see, Mercedes Lewis is a 38 year old Tight End who played for 12 years in Jacksonville before (likely finishing) the last 5 in GB. A former Round 1 pick out of UCLA, it nearly blew my mind (but really should not have) that Lewis is THE ONLY ROUND 1 PICK THAT AARON RODGERS HAS THROWN A TD PASS TO IN HIS ENTIRE CAREER. That’s right, stars like Jordy Nelson (2008), Greg Jennings (2006), and Devante Adams (2014) are all Round 2 steak, no sizzle. It took Rodgers finally getting hooked up with an over-the-hill lunch pail Tight End (one 2nd team All Pro in 17 seasons) to give him any Round 1 TD connection! Just another reminder that it is QB, Protect QB, and Rush the QB. Love those Round 2 Wide Receivers. Amani Toomer, Sterling Shepard, Steve Smith, Joe Jurevicius. Round 1? No thanks.

The Giants find themselves down 17-3 with not much time left in the first half. It is 3rd & 9 and the team needs a play. With 2:44 left in H1, you have to remember that if the drive ends here, we get 3 points and there is plenty of time for Rodgers to go all the way down the field and score 7. Instead, go to 5:21 and watch Darius Slayton at the bottom of your screen get 3 crucial yards after the catch to move the sticks. Ginormous. Huge.

The Defense may not look pretty in the first half, but please notice that the Packers did not get sloppy YAC. The Giants defenders were sure tacklers (see McKinney at 6:00, the last defender, and Love three plays later at 6:17 to stop the player from going out of bounds and keep the clock moving). Blocking and tackling won’t make headlines, but it made the Packers work more for what they got. This is one of the building blocks in the rebuild and a reason why the Giants find themselves competitive in EVERY game they have played this season.

There were more than a couple of plays (3 at least) where I found error in the way the clock was winding down at the end of the first AND second half. Yes, yes. We know that the clock on the NFL Network is not the official’s clock. Yet there were precious seconds not elapsed. Look at the game clock get pushed back literally 4 seconds at ~5:55. Of course a timeout may have been called, but I saw this a few times, and at the end of the game it cost the Giants a few more seconds, all of which were critical.

All right. The score is 17-3 and then 20-10 at the half. How many of you honestly thought we were winning this game? I still did not. We saw small things, building blocks, but not enough to believe a win was coming. Any fan was happy with competitiveness. The gravy would arrive in the second half.

Slayton 6:39. Slayton again 6:52. Jones getting protection. Jones QB draw. Jones 3rd down QB draw again is stopped. I hope Neal (7:12) gets coached up on holding his block longer. A 20-13 FG was collected in the first possession of the 2nd half.

Get a load of Sexy Dexy! 8:18 That is one sack dance I can watch all day. That ends the drive.

We finally get to the pivotal moment in the entire game. I doubt that others will pin this play down as the biggest of the game, but it was for me. The Giants have the ball. They trail 20-13. The field position is super ugly at the 9 yard line. Barkley on first down goes down for a 1 yard loss and is removed from the game with an injury. 2nd and 11 from the 8 yd line. 8:26 PLAY ACTION TO BREIDA WITH A FLARE PASS TO BREIDA IN THE RIGHT FLAT. YAC. FIRST DOWN. If the Giants fail on this down, be it with a bad playcall or with poor execution, it is 3rd and long, Rodgers likely gets the ball back near midfield with an easy time to make it 23-13 or more. Instead, Breida gets them out of the hole, and the Giants drive 91 yards to tie the game. 2nd and 11 from the 8. Big.

On this drive, we see plenty of (1) Play action (2) Jones uses his legs to move the sticks (3) Jones roll out and pass on the run and (4) Stepping up in the pocket just enough to avoid pressure. I would prefer he take one additional step (consistently a half second earlier), but he certainly got it done.

Luck. Right now Giants fans are warmly ensconced in their win, with 10:11‘s theatrics purged from their memory. The bungee jumping of this Special Teams muff is not something I want to relive either. Just a reminder you have to be good and lucky to win games.

Speaking about theater, the Barkley show resumed (at 10:29) when the star RB (“super bullish” in 2022) returned from injury and rumbled for 40 yards on a crossing pattern. YAC YAC YAC. He capped the drive with a TD (10:44) out of the wildcat for the Giants to take their first lead of the game.

At this point, the Giants have just scored 17 points unanswered, trailing at the half 20-10, now up 27-20.

Bend. Don’t break. The Giants red zone defense did it again with 2 deflections on 3rd and 4th down 11:48 and 11:58. Martindale dialed up blitzes from the Left Side with Love and McKinney. Raanan reported that it was McKinney who got the ball batted for an incompletion to end the drive.

The punter committing a Safety was exactly what was required. The Giants killed some clock, and got 30 yards of field position for 2 inconsequential points. Essentially the Giants D shut down Rodgers & the Pack in the second half, and scored on every possession until the final one where they took a knee.

This win says so many things. Let’s bullet them:

  • Competitive
  • Resilient
  • Coaching advantage
  • Prepared
  • Jones (Week 3-5) playing better than any time in his career
  • Schoen’s inherited weak roster (via horrible cap) not limiting the team
  • rookies like Bellinger, Belton, Thibodeaux, Davidson, Neal, Fox (and even Ezeudu before injury) seeing meaningful minutes
  • Injuries to players like Ojulari, Toney, Williams (and Adoree Jackson in H2) have not stopped this team from winning
  • backups like Breida and McCloud came in today and made a difference
  • Jaylon Smith is helping the LBer corps in a big way
  • 21 players on Defense made at least 1 tackle, that is sick
  • No turnovers, Jones is protecting the ball
  • Offensive line was very good, not great, but certainly good enough to let Jones work (4 hits, 1 sack against a vg defense)
  • Still plenty of room for improvement in the screen game, but I have supreme confidence in this coaching staff to accomplish nearly anything right now, given time
  • Slayton 6 receptions for 79 yards and if Jones puts the ball in stride for him late near the end of Q1 on the 3rd possession, Slayton goes to the house
  • Slayton takes pressure off of Barkley, and Barkley off of Slayton
  • Scheme-wise, it is kind of scary how much more potential there is if this team gets players back AND in future years when they are not cap strangled anymore

If Jones stays healthy and continues his progression, he will be part of this team’s future. I cannot say enough good things about Daboll and his staff. It is only 5 games, and the NFL has seen its fair share of one and done head coaches who failed to live up to impressive debuts. Yet Daboll seems not only in command, he knows exactly what he is doing all the time. We said the organization needed to go outside. We got Schoen and Daboll from outside, and these guys are turning everything around faster than anyone (yes, even the most optimistic!) could have believed. I am still calling this season a rebuild. But don’t tell the players and the coaches that.

Wonder: 32 NFL Team One-liners

Our draft analyst, Wonder, imparts his quick one line summaries of all 32 NFL teams after the early games were in the books on Sunday afternoon.

BUF– Still the team to beat.
MIA– Even with Tua, inflated 3-1.
NYJ– Good things on the horizon, but not now.
NE– I can’t wait for the “Get rid of Bill” chants.

BAL– For a really good team to be 2-2 by blowing a 21 pt and a 17 pt lead is embarrassing/disturbing/pathetic (pick one).
CIN– Keep the faith.
CLE– Losing to NYJ and ATL is not a way to impress Deshaun Watson.
PIT– Tomlin will finally have a losing season.

JAX– Beware the future Jags.
TENN– The up for grabs part of the division.
IND– How bad can a really good team play?
HOU– No hope now, and no hope for the future.

KC– Still the AFC cream of the crop.
LAC– So much for everybody’s dark horse Super Bowl winner.
DEN– Tell me again, what did the Broncos pay for Russell Wilson?
LVR– This is what a potentially 3-0 team looks like at 0-3.

PHL– If there is a weakness on this team, I do not see it.
DAL– Hard to believe I have to give McCarthy credit for being 3-1.
NYG– Just made the list of the top 10 worst 3-1 teams in the NFL.
WAS– I guess it wasn’t the name after all, as they just plain s*ck.

MIN– Could be scary down the road.
GB– I saw Aaron Rodgers on the side of the road looking for Wide Receivers.
CHI– If they go 8-9, a monument should be erected for Eberflus.
DET– Campbell? Defense?

TB– Giselle’s not the only one regretting Brady coming back for another year.
ATL– If ATL and CHI at 2-2 are the definition of parity in the NFL, why bother watching?
CAR– A mediocre team with a mediocre future.
NO– Payton got out just in time.

LAR– Still a chance to win the NFC.
SEA– Another example of 2-2 hopelessness.
SF– The best 1-2 team in the NFC, far from done.
AZ– Is it right for a franchise to get rid of only their good players?