When the Giants traded away receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the spring, head coach Pat Shurmur, in trying to assuage uneasy Giants fans regarding how the team was going to make up for the lost production, spoke about it “taking a village” to get the job done on offense.
Unfortunately for the Giants, members of their village seem to be dropping like flies, particularly at the receiver position, while another member of their “village,” running back Saquon Barkley, isn’t getting his fair share of the work.
Besides missing Golden Tate, who is serving a four-game suspension, Sterling Shepard, who returned last week after sitting out most of the preseason with a broken thumb, is currently in the concussion protocol and is in danger of missing this weekend’s home opener against the Buffalo Bills.
Rookie Darius Slayton (hamstring) continues to be at least a week or two away from returning and on Thursday, Cody Latimer, who has been starting alongside Shepard in Tate’s absence, missed practice with a calf injury.
But rather than spend too much time worrying about what they’re going to do at receiver and making that group the central focus of the offense Sunday, the Giants coaching staff might be better off figuring out how to get Barkley, their best offensive playmaker, more touches in both the running and passing games.
Barkley, who once again showed in the spring and summer how much of a matchup nightmare he can be when split out wide and isolated against linebackers in coverage, logged a career-low 15 touches—11 rushes and four pass receptions—in Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys.
Shurmur blamed the lack of touches for Barkley, who was otherwise in the game as a decoy, on the lack of sustained drives in the second quarter and then on the fact that the Giants had fallen behind and had to pass the ball more.
But that explanation hasn’t flown with the critics who see Shurmur’s play-calling as being too conservative.
Shurmur, however, insists that’s not the case.
“We all know that Saquon is a focus of our offense,” he said. “He’s also, smartly, the focus of the teams that are defending us. His charm is that you can hand it to him or throw it to him. Yeah, we want him to get the football. It makes sense for him to get the football. … Each game plays out differently.”
Regardless of how a game plays out, the Giants have fooled no one by using Barkley as a decoy, and in fact, an argument can be made that they’ve made it easier for opposing defenses to defend them.
Barkley isn’t one to complain, saying that he’s willing to do whatever is asked of him to help the team win.
“If we play better than we did last game, and we execute what we need to execute, I don’t think the conversation will be about 15 touches,” he said.
“But at the end of the day, Dallas made more plays than us. We have to find a way to do that better next game.”
They can start by putting the ball in the hands of their best playmaker and challenging the Bills to stop him as opposed to worrying that the Bills know what might be coming.