The strategy is sound, yet simple enough for anyone who has watched the Giants the past two seasons to come up with: Stop Saquon Barkley, stop the Giants. “We had a commitment and we weren’t going to be bashful about that commitment,’’ Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said after his team’s 26-16 win Monday night. “We …
The strategy is sound, yet simple enough for anyone who has watched the Giants the past two seasons to come up with:
Stop Saquon Barkley, stop the Giants.
“We had a commitment and we weren’t going to be bashful about that commitment,’’ Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said after his team’s 26-16 win Monday night. “We thought that guy was a catalyst for whatever that they were going to do offensively. We put our secondary in harm’s way some in an effort to do so. We needed to stack the line of scrimmage. We needed to bring people … and we did. We did what we thought was necessary to minimize his impact on the game.’’
Giving the ball to the most talented player on the field became a gift to Pittsburgh.
On 15 carries, Barkley finished with 6 yards rushing. On 11 occasions, the highest-drafted running back of the past 13 years was hit behind the line of scrimmage.
“Saquon played hard … [but] it’s a collective effort,” Giants coach Joe Judge said Tuesday. “No one person can do better for all of us to have success.”
Five will suffice.
Looking the part of a unit with three new starters — including debuting center Nick Gates and free-agent acquisition Cam Fleming at right tackle — the Giants’ offensive line repeatedly set its best player up for failure.
Daniel Jones wasn’t given much help, either. In addition to being sacked three times, Jones was pressured on 26 dropbacks, more than any other quarterback in the league faced in Week 1.
New offensive line coach Marc Colombo can make adjustments, but he can’t fast-track cohesion.
“As a unit, we just gotta go ahead and keep improving collectively,” Judge said. “That’s the biggest thing. The one thing about those bigs is it doesn’t matter how one guy plays. It’s all five [that] have to play in sync all the time and they have to get that chemistry going forward. I have no doubt there’s gonna be a lot of improvement going forward. I’m very confident in all the guys we have on the offensive line.”
Rookie Andrew Thomas generated the most optimism.
Playing all 68 offensive snaps in his pro debut against one of the league’s best defensive fronts, the fourth-overall pick out of Georgia earned the line’s highest grade (60.8) according to Pro Football Focus, besting Gates (54.4), Fleming (51.6), Kevin Zeitler (49.6) and Will Hernandez (46.3).
Judge envisions even better performances from Thomas in the future.
“I think he showed that he’s got a lot of ability in this league and there’s a reason he’s here,” Judge said. “He fought really hard. I think he played well overall. He learned a lot of valuable lessons going against top opponents like Bud DuPree. That’s something you can’t simulate. I don’t care who you’ve got on your defensive front. He’s just different than guys you may have. He plays with a distinct motor. He’s a tough competitor. You have to have a lot of respect for him, and for Andrew to have his first NFL competition in a game against a guy like that that says a lot for how he was able to hold up throughout the game.”