Last November, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traveled to the Meadow Lands where they first they received a first-hand account of what rookie phenom Saqoun Barkley was all about. The Buccaneers and the Giants put on a show which ended with the Giants barely scraping by for the win, 38-35. The stars of that game were running backs, Saquon Barkley and Peyton Barber, while JPP, GMAC, and Carl Nassib sacked Eli Manning 4 times. Mike Evans shined with 6 receptions for 120 yards and a TD. Winston fell 1 yard shy of 200 yards passing, but managed two TDs. He was picked off once. Manning threw for 234 yards and two TDs. Tampa failed to intercept a pass from him. The big story here is Saquon Barkley and 142 yards and 2 TDs on the ground and an additional TD through the air. We cannot allow that to happen on Sunday and Arians and Bowles are preparing.
On Wednesday, Bruce Arians opened his media address with,
“Very, very good start to the week very fast. Good, solid practice. We’ve got a heck of an opponent this week. Changing quarterbacks doesn’t really change their offense; it does change some things. For us, we’ve got to stop number 26, (who is Saquon Barkley). It all starts and ends with him, then we’ll try to contain the quarterback because he’s a heck of a lot more mobile than the other guy. Our defense will be ready, and offensively I’d like to see us get off to a little bit faster start.”
But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just held Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey to 53 all-purpose yards, 37 on the ground and 16 through the air, and ultimately kept him out of the endzone. Facts are facts. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense is revamped and through two games appears to be night and day in difference from previous Buccaneer defenses. It’s been a while since we’ve seen that kind of solid in your face type of defense. However, stop McCaffrey is one thing, stopping Barkley, is another thing entirely.
In the eyes of our head coach, Barkley and McCaffrey are not even comparable. Arians believes, as do many others, that Christian McCaffrey, while good, is not even on the same planet as Saquon Barkley.
“They’re on different planets. Saquon’s bigger, stronger, faster. He’s got more 50 yard runs than anybody I’ve seen in a long time. He’s hard to bring down. He doesn’t run over many people, he runs around them and runs past them. The size and the speed combination are extremely rare.”
Just how to do you stop Barkley? Bruce Arians has an idea.
“You’ve got to gang tackle. It’s got to take everybody getting to the ball and gap integrity – you can’t try to do too much. If you try to do more than your job, you’re going to open up a gigantic hole and he’s going to find it. Stay in your gap. Get everybody to the ball. Our defensive backs are going to have to tackle really well, and if a safety takes a bad angle – Todd showed about 20 clips today in the meeting – you take a bad angle, it’s a touchdown.”
Todd Bowles kept his comments to a minimum as to not give away any details of his game plan, but did talk about the skills Barkley has and how tough it is for teams to prepare for him.
“His highlight tape is better. I don’t know what separates him. I haven’t seen them all, but he’s got great vision, he’s got great body lean and he’s got strong legs. He makes plays. Everybody tries to defend him; he makes plays every week. You can sit there and watch the tape and every week he’s doing something great.”
Of course, I had to look in on the Giants to see what Saquon Barkley has to say about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and it seems he’s not concerned with the team keying in on him.
“Do I take it as a challenge? No. I just understand it, it’s life. It’s been like that for me through high school, college, and now in the NFL. I recognize that God blessed me with a lot of talent, put me on a great team, with a great coach, great teammates, and a great offensive line, to put me in a position to be successful. I have had a lot of success at a young age, so I know that comes with the territory. So, is it a challenge? No. I just know that’s the mindset every single week, because my mindset every single week is to do what it takes to help my team win, and I have been doing that. When it’s not with the numbers, it’s just continuing to be a leader. When my opportunities come, try to find a way to get in the end zone a little bit more, if I have to make that block, or if I have to make that catch to help my team, I’ll do whatever it takes.”
Saquon Barkley is not the only threat the Giants have, but he is the only one to be worried about. Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones is certainly no one to scoff at, but our defense as long as they stay fast on their feet should have no problem with him and his quick-strike passes. Sterling Shepard returns to the lineup, Sunday, but with Barkley putting down 227 yards on the ground in back to back losses, he is still going to have to be the main focus of this game. Tampa should win this one pretty easily as long as they stay long-winded and fast, and head out on the road satisfied with a big win at home.